Ya’Ke Smith has been making a film a year for the past two decades, and his prolific pace continues in 2020. In May, three days after the killing of George Floyd, Smith released Dear Bruh, a nine-minute eulogy for Black men and women who’ve died at the hands of police. Now, he’s at work on The Pandemic Chronicles, an upcoming short-film series.
Inspired by the Dogme 95 and L.A. Rebellion movements, both of which drew up strict rules to enable methods of filmmaking that broke with Hollywood orthodoxy, Smith and his wife and collaborator Mikala Gibson drafted their own set of guidelines, dubbed the “Quarantine 2020 Manifesto.” (Among the rules: Actors and cinematographers must be living together, or maintain strict social distance if they aren’t. And the director must be able to work with them over video chat.)
So far, adhering to the manifesto, Smith has created films with crews from Fort Worth, Arlington, Austin and San Marcos. In one, a young man agonizes as he graduates from college in isolation and mourns the loss of his mother. In another, a nurse unable to be with her family for fear of infecting them struggles to navigate her lonely reality. No doubt, the shorts will serve to document a time when the world was askew.