One of the most compelling films featured during the CineSol Film Festival was Wolf. Written and directed by Ya’Ke Smith. I had the opportunity of interviewing Ya’Ke and producer Ralph Lopez during the festival where they talked about the film and Exodus Filmworks.
“It’s a story that needs to be told in order to move on,” said Ya’ke. It was easy to feel Ya’ke’s passion for portraying social issues in his movies. He believes movies are a powerful medium, and his goal is to bring awareness. Wolf is about a family’s struggle dealing with the molestation of their son and his mental collapse, and their triumph over the situation. Both Ralph and Ya’Ke recalled the recent time during the screening of Wolf in Chicago when a young man stood up and spoke about his own personal experience dealing with molestation as a child, and how he thanked them for shedding some light into this taboo subject.
When asked about why people choose to remain silent, and why we hear about these cases years after they happened, Ya’ke said he believed it is because most people believe they are doing a disservice to God by speaking up, so they choose to remain quiet. Then he added that somehow society is more accepting of women being the victims of molestation and rape, and how men tend to be more ashamed and therefore more likely to remain quiet. The film was featured during Austin’s South By Southwest Festival, and after their CineSol stop, Ya’Ke and Ralph will travel to New York City to participate in the Urban World Festival, and continue to D.C., Oakland, New Orleans, Houston and Canada. Like any other independent film makers, they hope a distribution company will pick up the film.
Ya’Ke is a native of San Antonio, Texas, who produced his first film at the age of fifteen while attending Sam Houston High School. He earned a Master’s of Fine Arts from the University of Texas, and currently teaches film related courses at the University of Texas in Arlington, Texas. He is considered one of this generation’s film directors to watch according to IMDb.com. Ya’Ke’s short film Hope’s War (2005), was the recipient of the Directors Guild of America Student Film Award, and selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival as part of Kodak’s Emerging Filmmaker Showcase. Ya’Ke has won awards at over 80 national and international film festivals including an HBO Short Film Award, and a Black Reel Award among others.
Ya’Ke’s next film will deal with child sex trafficking in the United States, and the surprising role his hometown of San Antonio plays in this clandestine industry. During the interview, Ya’Ke pointed out how most people believe the victims are foreign girls and boys, and how that is not the case; our local children are exploited in higher numbers.
Having grown in the city’s projects, Ya’Ke said he saw plenty of hardship, which has been his inspiration, but the positive impact his church bestowed on him is something he cherishes. Ya’Ke mentioned his love for The Church of the New Creation Christian Fellowship of San Antonio, and the support he has received from Bishop David Michael Copeland and Pastor Claudette Anderson Copeland, especially in the production of Wolf.
Meeting Ya’Ke Smith has certainly impacted me and those who attended the film’s presentation during CineSol. It is people like Ya’Ke and Ralph Lopez who remind us of the importance of supporting the local film industry, and independent film lovers, because like Ya’Ke said; “Films are a powerful Medium.”