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Annual Top Films Lists

Top 100 Most Anticipated American Independent Films of 2019: #10. Janicza Bravo’s Zola

Top 100 Most Anticipated American Independent Films of 2019: #10. Janicza Bravo’s Zola


A Sundance NEXT section revelation with her directorial debut in 2016’s Lemon (we were fans earlier on with her short work), we’re expecting Janicza Bravo (we interviewed her in Park City) to go where no tweet has gone before with Zola, a project set up by the Killer Films and A24 folks that had James Franco looking to direct. Production began in October with Taylour Paige landing the coveted lead role, and supporting sparring partners including Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun, Colman Domingo and Jason Mitchell. Blessed by Ava DuVernay and Missy Elliott when this was exploding on twitter back in 2015, the Los Angeles production saw the filmmaker work with Lady Macbeth dp Ari Wegner.

Gist: Written by Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris, Andrew Neel and Mike Roberts and based on Wells’ life and the Rolling Stone magazine piece “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted,” (read here) this is the saga about a stripper (Taylour Paige) that took Twitter (and the larger internet) by storm in 2015. Then-20-year-old Aziah Wells, aka Zola, rose to internet infamy when she chronicled, 140 characters at a time, a wild 48-hour odyssey with an exotic dancer, the dancer’s boyfriend and a pimp.

Release Date/Prediction: Production began early enough for Zola to break out and be well packaged during the fall fest season with showings at Venice or TIFF with Sundance programmers looking to lure the title for a 2020 berth.


Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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