Film / TV
worry not internet, ‘zola’ lived up to the hype
By Awa Gueye
February 4, 2020
Zola is an example that the Internet doesn’t always have to be trash. Social media has certainly evolved into something none of us could have anticipated. It’s birthing some of our best and most chaotic moments over the last decade, informing our global laugh language, and providing us with endless entertainment. And in 2015, Zola came into our messy lives to tell us a story about how her and “this bitch” fell out. And the Internet loved it. In fact, it loved it so much, Zola’s story became a movie.
The instantly iconic Twitter thread detailed a true story about a crazy road-trip. The thread — and the response to it — grew larger than anyone could have possibly anticipated. Too often, our creatives are celebrated online with likes and verbal accolades, but rarely compensated for their cultural contributions. As we, the people of the Internet, have noticed time and time again, work from viral Black content creators has too often found its way into corporate marketing plans or TV show scripts without credit. When word got out that Zola’s story was headed to the big screen, it was natural for folks to be both ecstatic and nervous for what it could become.
Luckily, the hands that brought Zola’s story to life were Black ones, the ones who really cared about it. From director (Janicza Bravo) to screenwriters (Janicza Bravo and celebrated playwright, Jeremy O’Harris) — with, of course, the approval of Aziah “Zola” herself — we now have a dark comedy for the ages. The hilarious brilliance of Zola’s already well structured storytelling found a beautiful home on the screen.
The film’s creative cinematography, score, and solid performances make the Internet tale come to life in a more cohesive way than I could have ever expected social media storytelling to be portrayed on screen. The dings and tones of the cellphone cleverly make their way into the soundtrack, as opposed to manifesting as awkward on-screen interruption. As it does in real life, technology weaves its way into the narrative in more ways than one. With fantastic performances by the ensemble cast, but specifically standout turns by Taylour Paige (Zola), Riley Keough (Stefani) and Nicholas Braun (Derek), we are immersed into the whirlwind world of Zola.
The story is of a young woman named Zola who meets a sex worker, Stefani, at the restaurant she works at. The two quickly bond over similar interests (stripping) and make a plan to take a road trip to Florida, for a job together. But the once-promising opportunities quickly go haywire, and their adventure becomes the trip from hell.
Zola‘s success is a win for an entire community. It is long been known that the internet is an incredible resource, and that Black creatives online have proven, time and time again, that they dictate culture. The entertainment industry should lift up their voices on the daily, invest in the plethora of their untold stories, which audiences want to see/hear/read. More and more professional screenwriters, directors, actors, production companies should not just gain inspiration from this corner of the Internet, but actually physically bring these talents into the rooms they already impact from afar. We have long waited to hear from the Zolas of the world — this film has confirmed exactly why.
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