Ya’Ke Smith, known for his unflinching and veracious style of storytelling, is a rising voice in independent cinema.
His films have received worldwide acclaim, screening, and winning awards at over 100 film festivals. The Director’s Guild of America, the Student Academy Awards, HBO, Showtime, the City of Buffalo, NY (which proclaimed February 23, 2013, as Ya’Ke Smith Day) and the city of Cincinnati, OH (which proclaimed October 6, 2019, as Ya'Ke Smith Day) have honored him.
His short, KATRINA'S SON screened at over 40-film festivals and won 14 awards. The film was also eligible for the 2012 Academy Award in short filmmaking. His debut feature, WOLF, which NPR called “an impressive piece by a young director,” premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and has gone on to screen and win awards at festivals across North America. The film is now available for download via several VOD outlets. Ya'Ke's film DAWN made its television premiere on HBO in February of 2015, and screened on the network for two years. The film was also streamed as part of Issa Rae's Short Film Sunday series on her YouTube channel. His web-series, THE BEGINNING AND ENDING OF EVERYTHING, is currently streaming on the digital platform A Space for Creators. Ya'Ke’s latest projects BROTHER, EDWIN, THE PANDEMIC CHRONICLES, and JUNETEENTH: FAITH & FREEDOM, have all won top honors at film festivals across the U.S. THE PANDEMIC CHRONICLES was theatrically distributed by Full Spectrum Features and JUNETEENTH: FAITH & FREEDOM broadcast nationally on PBS. The film will soon be available in classrooms across the country via PBS Learning Media.
Ya’Ke has directed episodes of the hit BET series TALES and SACRIFICE. He also wrote and directed episodes of the REELZ series Scandal Made Me Famous, Murder Made Me Famous, and The Price of Fame. He most recently produced and directed the documentary Black Girl Missing and episodes of the docu-series Text Me When You Get Home, both of which aired on Lifetime TV and currently stream on the Lifetime App.
Ya’Ke has been featured on NPR, CNN, HLN, Ebony Online, Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Variety, Vogue, and Shadow and Act. He was a fellow of the Op-Ed Project and has written Op-Eds for The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, The Emancipator, and The San Antonio Express-News. He was previously a contributing columnist with the Dallas Morning News.
Ya’Ke graduated with his B.A. from the Communication Arts Department at the University of The Incarnate Word, where he later became the youngest recipient of the Alumni of Distinction for Professional Achievement Award. He received his M.F.A. from The University of Texas at Austin’s film program, where he is currently an Associate Professor of film. From 2019–2022, he served as the inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Moody College of Communication. He was awarded the Robert C. Jeffrey Benefactor Award, as well as the Creative Achievement Award from Moody College. He was previously the Morgan Woodward Distinguished Professor of Film at The University of Texas at Arlington, where he was honored with both the College of Liberal Arts Creative Activity Award and the University Award for Outstanding Creative Accomplishment. Variety magazine named him one of the best film educators in the world.
Identity & Representation
All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.