‘Zola’ | Anatomy of a Scene

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‘Zola’ | Anatomy of a Scene

Janicza Bravo narrates a sequence from her film featuring Taylour Paige and Colman Domingo.

HI. I am Janicza Bravo, the director and co-writer of Zola. So this is probably one of our prettiest scenes. At this point in the film, Zola, Taylour Paige’s character, knows that the trip she signed up for, what she had been seduced into, is not what she was sold, right? And so her plan is to come to Florida, dance to make money. And what she realizes is that she has been sold into a sex slavery of sorts. And Colman Domingo’s character, X, is the pimp who she is working for. “What’s this for?” “Respect.” “So I can go home now?” “Nah. [LAUGHS] I’m gonna need you to do what you did last night.” “I appreciate your confidence in me. But I came to dance.” So the movie’s pretty claustrophobic. A lot of the work that the women do and a lot of our time in Florida, in Tampa, is inside. And this is one of our first times that we get to be outside, and we get to luxuriate in the outdoors. “May I, uh—” “She don’t need any help.” “—help you, miss?” “She doesn’t need any help.” “I’m good.” But the thing that happens inside of the scene is in contradiction of this kind of freedom and this openness. At least the first third of the movie or a portion of the movie you really feel like Zola is in charge of her own story. And at a certain point, X takes it out of her hands. And so she has this room to go have this moment at the pool, and then he literally enters and blocks her sunlight and reminds her of who is in control of her voice. What I’d hoped here is that the scene would remind us that some of our relationship to sex work/sex slavery is something that we have the privilege of getting to experience at an arm’s-length distance. And here it tells us that it’s actually right next to us. And it’s whether or not we choose to see it.

Recent episodes in Anatomy of a Scene

Film directors walk viewers through one scene of their movies, showing the magic, motives and the mistakes from behind the camera.

Film directors walk viewers through one scene of their movies, showing the magic, motives and the mistakes from behind the camera.

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