Zola Jesus recommends watching cult sex trafficking film Lilya 4-Ever


During a conversation with singer-songwriter Alice Glass, singer-songwriter Nika Roza Danilova, better known as Zola Jesus, recommended that Glass watch a film called Lilya 4-Ever. After further investigation, we’re paying that rec forward.

ZOLA JESUS: I love t.A.T.u. so fucking much. And then the movie Lilya 4-Ever [2003], which is one of my favorite movies. If you haven’t seen it, you should, because you’d love it.

ALICE GLASS: I actually saw your tweet about that, and I watched the trailer a million times. I kind of feel like, I don’t know, I can just tell when something’s going to—


JESUS: It’s going to ruin you.

GLASS: Yeah, but it’s good to be emotional and raw.

JESUS: I have a tendency to want to watch the bleakest movies for some reason, and I always regret it afterward. But it’s a beautiful movie and your music reminds me of it, because it brings together so many disparate elements—it feels hopeful and innocent, but at the same time so strange and traumatic.


Lilya 4-Ever is a devastating film about a teenage girl’s descent into forced prostitution. Sixteen-year-old Lilya’s mother flees to America to start a new life with a man she just met, leaving her daughter alone in the poverty-stricken Soviet boondocks. She befriends 11-year-old Volodja, also abandoned by his family, and begins turning tricks to survive.

Ultimately, Lilya repeats the cycle started by her mother when she flees to Sweden with a suave and sinister older man, leaving Volodja to fend for himself. No matter how badly we wish for Lilya’s lot to improve—some form of redemption—it hits yet another landmine, her life shattering over and over.

Directed by Lukas Moodysson, the film was released in 2002, among an early aughts wave of cinematic stories about immigrants and asylum seekers. Unfortunately, stories like that of Lilya are still applicable today. As per Zola Jesus, this devastating piece about human trafficking, lovelessness, and poverty is “going to ruin you.” Watch the trailer below.