Last year, filmmaker Janicza Bravo turned quite a few heads with her directorial debut Lemon, a masterfully executed comedy-drama which she co-wrote with comedic actor Brett Gelman. She’s also directed multiple episodes for television, including the Juneteenth episode of Atlanta and Chapter IX (the road trip episode) of Dear White People‘s second season. Now, the Brooklyn-born auteur is reaping the benefits of her acclaimed work behind the camera. Brooks is set to direct the Zola saga for A24.
Based on a 2015 Rolling Stone article, “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted,” the project chronicles Aziah “Zola” Wells wild adventure to Florida. The article, written by David Kushner, is itself based on Wells’ 148-tweet rant in which she chronicles her Florida road trip with her best friend Jessica, Jessica’s bipolar boyfriend and Jessica’s violent pimp named Z. The viral tale attracted the attention of various black creatives, including Keke Palmer, Missy Elliott, Jackee Harry and Ava DuVernay.
Bravo will direct from a script written by Andrew Neel and Mike Roberts. Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa will produce the tale for Killer Films, while James Franco and Vince Jolivette will produce for Rabbit Bandini Productions. While there were rumors that Franco was removed from the project due to sexual allegations that arose against him during Oscar season, this has proven not to be the case. It would be in A24’s best interest to distance themselves from Franco, considering Zola’s tale is a morbid yet compelling tapestry rife with themes of sexual assault, trafficking and murder. In addition, A24, which has produced critically-acclaimed gems such as Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight, Hereditary and The Florida Project, might want to consider axing Franco from the project, as news of his involvement could incur backlash that could disrupt the streak of successful movies as of late. However, successful Franco projects, such as his starring role in HBO’s The Deuce, still remain intact.
Collider first reported the news that Bravo was helming the film.