Edwin Debrow Jr. murdered a cab driver when he was 12. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Ya’Ke Smith, known for his unflinching and veracious style of storytelling, is a rising voice in independent cinema. His films have received world-wide acclaim, screening and winning awards at over 90 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 video-on-demand outlets. His short 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 award-winning web-series, The Beginning and Ending of Everything, is currently streaming on the website a Space for Creators.
Ya’Ke has been featured on NPR, CNN, HLN, Ebony Online, Indiewire, Filmmaker Magazine and Shadow&Act. 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 and the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Moody College of Communication. He was previously the Morgan Woodward Distinguished Professor of Film at the University of Texas at Arlington.
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