In a contemporary industry that has seemingly forgotten the importance of low-budget filmmaking to innovate and question the fabric of cinema itself, where Disney may be the leader in the production of mainstream content, A24 are building an impressive library of truly challenging titles.
Their filmography so far is impressive enough, with titles such as Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, but even looking closer to the remainder of 2021, there are several exciting films yet to come. Consider Janicza Bravo’s Zola among these highly anticipated titles.
Appearing as a stylish flick about two strippers taking a wild trip through the roads of Florida, it’s not until you dig deeper into the latest A24 film that you’ll spot something considerably unique. It’s the first film that we know of, adapted not from a book, play or TV series, but from a thread of 143 tweets.
The Twitter thread by Aziah ‘Zola’ King and the Rolling Stone article Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted by David Kushner, was originally brought to the attention of James Franco in 2016 before it passed several hands and ended up with Janicza Bravo and A24 in 2018.
Hashtagged #TheStory, the stripper saga is a Twitter thread that went viral in 2015 and pieced together the story of Aziah King and new-nemesis ‘Jessica’ who managed to convince her to come along to a weekend of exotic dancing before spiralling into something far more dangerous. As King told David Kushner of Rolling Stone: “I made people who probably wouldn’t want to hear a sex trafficking story want to be a part of it…because it was entertaining”.
Attracting worldwide attention, the likes of Missy Elliot, Keke Palmer and Solange Knowles got involved with the Twitter drama, with even Selma director Ava DuVernay tweeting: “Drama, humour, action, suspense, character development… There’s so much untapped talent in the hood”. Zola was quick to reply, commenting: “I’m not from the hood tho Ava…Ima suburban bitch. Still love you tho”.
Despite the horrific account from Zola, it’s certainly great to see a morsel of positivity coming from such a story, with Aziah King hoping her story continues to raise awareness of the dangers of sex trafficking in the US. “For whatever reason, people feel like it doesn’t happen, not in their world at least…But it does,” she tells Rolling Stone. Her story is inspiring for several reasons, but perhaps the most surprising achievement is her unwitting innovation in screenwriting, responsible for the first-ever Twitter thread-turned cinematic event.