By: Denishea Bright
Ya’Ke Smith’s name has been attached to some of the most talked about independent films from the chit-chat at The Cannes International Film Festival to the living rooms of families who may have caught some of his work on Showtime or HBO. His work has brought him many awards like, the Directors Guild Of America Student Film Award and The Urbanworld Film Festival Honorable Mention Award just to name a couple.You can read about all of Smith’s achievements on the world wide web just like everything else because the internet is amazing and you can find what ever you like and that sparks your interest on it.
From moms searching for their favorite recipes or kids watching videos. Some of those kids will or may have already ran into the countless fight videos uploaded onto video sharing sites such as, Vine Fights or WorldStarHipHop for instance, and will find these violent acts “fun”.
One person in particular would be the main character of Smith’s new short film One Hitta Quitta. He’s a young boy who can’t seem to keep his cursor off the play button when it comes to a good fight. Little does he know, the videos are no longer just something that he can watch and forget about, but something that controls his mind and desires. This leads him to yearn for a fight of his own that can possibly become an instant hit on the internet for his classmates to see.
“Be fearless. I think fear is the thing that stops a lot of people from really pushing towards their dreams and really trying to pursue the things that they feel like they were either put on the earth to do or that they feel they can do. I think people talk us out of our dreams because put their negative energy onto us because they couldn’t do it.” ~Ya’Ke Smith
One Hitta Quitta isn’t Smith’s only focus, his short film dawn. is currently making its rounds in the film festival circuit and will be premiering on HBO in February 2015. The film follows Dawn, a woman who has spent a great deal of her time in and out of prison, struggling to get her happy ending, but it’s tough… with a past like hers.
The film dawn. stars Tyrees Allen, Monica Pena, Mikala Gibson, Nadine Mozon, Daniel Tanner, and Nadine Marissa.
Check out the trailer for dawn.
BGW: I think that it’s incredible that you’re doing a film about this because I think that it’s really easy for people to get caught up in the media. So much to the point where questions like: “Why is this song being played on the radio?” Or “Why are reality tv stars fighting on national television?” Or “Why on earth would you post this on the internet for the world to see?” These questions slowly stop coming to mind. Is the internet taking over our lives?
Ya’Ke Smith: I don’t think its just the internet. As a filmmaker, I choose to believe that the media can have a very positive effect on people depending upon what they are consuming and what they’re watching. On the flip side of that, you have tv shows like you know… the Real Housewives this… the Hip Hop this… the Hip Hop that. And everything isn’t violent, but there is a bunch of fighting, a bunch of gossiping, and a bunch of things that aren’t necessarily positive for the people that are watching them. If you’re old enough to understand them then its fine, but I think a lot of young people don’t really know how to differentiate between fact and fiction. You know? They think what they see on tv is real when in fact a lot of that stuff is staged and so for me I think when you start watching that then you want to become that and if you want to become these violent images that you’re watching then you go out and you start acting violent yourself, but you are really being violent. You’re really hurting someone not realizing that a lot of the stuff that’s influencing you were probably not real in the first place. And so I think that the negative imagery, because it’s everywhere, again we’re just saturated with it everyday in our lives. And I think its making the culture more violent.
BGW: What is it that you hope that the viewers of this film will take away?
Ya’Ke Smith: I think one, I would hope that people can kind of look at this film and see the negative impact that this violence is having on our youth. I don’t think that it’s any accident that in the last few years, ten years, or so you’ve seen a spike in violence that you can see on the internet, and on tv. And its making us, I think, more violent as a people. I would hope that people can sort of look at that and say, “You know what ? Maybe I need to think twice before I start filming someone fighting and posting it online.” Because yeah its fun or whatever at that moment for them, but again you’re posting it online and a million kids are watching it so the question is, what is that doing to their young minds? Not only that, but in the film I also comment on the educational system and what the school system is doing or not doing for our children. I think the things that they used to do they aren’t doing them anymore, as far as disciplining them… as far as teaching… as far as making students accountable for their actions. Which I think when I was in school it was very different. If you did something wrong, you got in trouble. Now a lot of times students aren’t even reprimanded anymore for their actions because of, I hate to say it, but school ratings. Or not wanting to be queued as a bad school, or not wanting to be queued as a low performance school. So they let students fly by with a lot of stuff. And the parents as well aren’t holding their kids accountable for their actions. The education of a child is not one-sided. It takes the parents and the schools working together. From what I’ve seen, (not everybody) I’m just seeing a huge gap in that and seeing a huge sort of disparity in the way that parents are and the way that the teachers are teaching and I think that right there is influencing a lot of this violence and a lot of these negative things that are happening with our youth.
BGW: I understand that you are a film professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, what is it that you hope your students take away with them after leaving your class?
Ya’Ke Smith: The thing that we really push at our school is telling meaningful stories. Anybody who follows my work knows that all of my films deal with hard issues and hard reality, but really deal within a way that I feel can spark conversation for things we haven’t talked about. And not every student makes the kind of work that I make, but I think no matter what they’re making, the one thing that I want them to take away is that you need to make stories that resonate with people. You need to make something that in many ways can impact people. That in many ways can stick with people. And that in many ways can get people to really reevaluate some of the decisions that they are making. And look at some of the things that they’ve done and the world around them in a different way. I think if someone leaves a theater and their perspective on something hasn’t changed then for me in my kind of way of film, I feel that I have failed. And so I try to sort of impart that into my students. And so I’m pushing them to really look around. I’m pushing them to really tell meaningful stories. I’m pushing them to ask the question, why am I making this story? What is my purpose? What is my intention? And what do I want the audience to walk away with when they leave the theater?
Please help support the One Hitta Quitta Indiegogo campaign here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/one-hitta-quitta
Feature Image Courtesy of Don Hopkins Photography
Stills Courtesy of Christian Vasquez