The next big thing: Ya'Ke Smith

The auteur in repose: Ya’Ke Smith. Courtesy photo.

The Second Coming and much, much more at the S.A. Underground Film Festival: June 22-24
San Antonio College
Fri, 12pm-9pm
Aztec on the River
Fri, 2pm-11pm
Sat, 10am-11pm
Sun, 12pm-6:30pm
$8 presale, $10 at the door
Get the complete schedule at!

Ya’Ke is a filmmaker whose eye-opening upbringing spawned an artist with a knack for veracious storytelling. Still a young man, his films have already captivated their viewers (he’s got a train of awards tagging along behind him to prove it), and now there’s another of his films is already creating buzz. Ya’Ke’s provocative filmmaking seems to be headed for red-carpet status.

Ya’Ke — born Dwain Ya’Ke Smith — has been making films since he was 15, but it was his work at the University of the Incarnate Word that propelled his career. While a student at UIW, the McNair Scholar shot Black Magic, Strange Fruit, and Family Reunion. However, it was his work as a graduate student that garnered him international recognition.

Last year, Ya’Ke earned the esteemed pleasure of being invited to the Cannes International Film Festival to screen his pre-thesis project for his master’s degree at the University of Texas, Hope’s War. This 13-minute piece delves into the reality of post-traumatic stress disorder and is a raw, dismal portrayal of war’s psychological aftermath which the filmmaker says is often overlooked by the media. He felt that people should be talking about it, and no one was.

Ya’Ke will be screening his latest film, The Second Coming, at the SA Underground Film Festival. It’s already been nominated for a 2007 Student Academy Award, and Ya’Ke hopes this means Cannes will come knockin’ on his door once again.

The film tells the story of an estranged father who gets out of prison and tries to make amends with his son. He says he wrote the script because he wanted to show how the absence of a father can negatively impact a child’s life, and more importantly, the power of forgiveness. “I wanted to show that no matter how many mistakes a person makes, it’s never too late for redemption, and how redeeming oneself not only frees that person, but can also change the life of the people they’ve offended.”

Ya’Ke was inspired tremendously by his surroundings growing up in his Eastside neighborhood. “Everything I write about or direct is something I’ve seen firsthand or that I’ve talked to someone about.” The son of a single mother who regularly worked two or three jobs to support him and his sisters, Ya’Ke says, “Watching her struggle gave me drive to do what I do. Seeing that made me realize that I didn’t want to struggle and do my best to succeed.” His mother was the inspiration for his film Shoppin’ (his wife, Mikala Gibson, played the lead role and acts in a majority of his films. She also won a Globe Award for Hope’s War).

Ya’Ke was also inspired by John Singleton’s debut film, Boyz in the Hood. “`The film` portrayed the issues happening all around me and it humanized people that Hollywood had demonized.” He added, “It showed the struggle of people like me, and seeing that made me want to make films like that and impact people the same way.”

Ya’Ke is currently working on raising money for his first feature-length film. He will be hosting a fundraiser this October, featuring a silent auction, a raffle, a celebrity host, and screenings of his entire catalog of films. 

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