Zola Tells All will be the next directorial venture by actor James Franco. This is such strange news revealed by Deadline. The viral story told by Twitter user Zola is a story of the dangerous misadventures of two sex workers.
While the Zola Tells All story is quite enjoyable, the news about James Franco directing is not. I’m sure Zola has agreed to the terms and conditions of whatever is happening with this project, but there are several issues that need to be discussed before I can totally accept the situation. I know I probably shouldn’t give a damn, but this whole thing really bugs me, and I will give you three reasons why. But before I do, let me quickly sum up the story of Zola Tells All.
Instead of Zola Tells All, the film should really be titled Zola: Strippers, Pimps, and a series of unfortunate events. Zola is a stripper who works at Hooters. She gets an invitation from a stranger she meets at Hooters named Jessica to travel to Florida, where there is more money to be made. Zola accepts the invitation, and once she arrives in Florida, all hell breaks loose!
Things get way out of control as Zola spirals deeper into an unexpected world of drugs, violence, and human trafficking, with absolutely no control over the situation. Luckily, after all that has transpired, Zola lives to tell the tale for all spectators on Twitter to enjoy. Whether the story is true or not is up for debate, but you should really read the story for yourself. You will realize Zola has quite a knack for storytelling. However, I don’t trust James Franco to have the same storytelling ability for his Zola Tells All film to pack a cinematic punch.
I find it very odd that James Franco was the only person in Hollywood that was interested in adapting this story for the film. Are directors of color busy? This just adds to the controversy of #Oscarssowhite (created by April Reign), the Oscar boycott, and the diversity issues of Hollywood. Again, those in control of maintaining the status-quo are writing and telling the stories of people of color.
Now, this is not to say that there aren’t screenwriters in Hollywood who cannot write good stories about people of color. However, now that Franco’s production company owns the rights to the Zola story, who is to say that this won’t be another film that will be entered into the whitewashed hall of shame? Franco is at liberty to change anything about the story that he chooses, and that means the possibility of people of color being shut out of roles that are meant for them. Unfortunately, this is something I believe many have come to expect from Hollywood these days.
James Franco’s directorial credits don’t offer any reassurance. In my opinion, he couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag, so I don’t see his directing being too far behind. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited that this story has gotten the attention of the masses, but I would rather have someone in charge who might be able to deliver a relatable story if that makes sense.
Founder of BlackGirlNerds.com, Jamie Broadnax, could not be more accurate with this statement in reference to the James Franco/Zola announcement. You should read her assessment of the situation at The Mary Sue.
Honestly, Twitter would not be as interesting without Black Twitter. Just like the hashtags #Oscarsowhite and #blacklivesmatter, some of the best advice, quotes, and stories are a part of Twitter history. What is unfortunate is there is something within the culture that makes this particular demographic of Twitter a target for “content mining.” When I say content mining, I mean media outlets lurking and searching through Black Twitter tweets to create news stories but not give credit to the originators, not referencing sources, not asking permission, and outright stealing content. Like I stated in the beginning, I hope Zola was approached, gave formal permission to James Franco, and wasn’t left out of the decision-making process. But to be real, it would not surprise me if she has no idea what’s going on.
I think the most important aspect of all is, despite the story of Zola and her misadventures being considered a thing of comedy, the issue of violence, kidnapping, and sex trafficking is very real. According to Florida Now, the state of Florida is third in the United States in human sex trafficking after California and New York. While Zola was able to walk away to tell her story, many people forced into prostitution do not have that option. I would hope those reading the series of tweets kept that in mind. I also hope James Franco addresses that when making Zola Tells All.
Will James Franco’s Zola Tells All be a box-office success? It is hard to tell right now, as this is only the beginning. From my observation, James Franco isn’t well liked, so I can see why some are excited about the project, while others not so much. Zola deserves better, but if she is happy, I guess that is what matters.
[Image via Annapurna Pictures]