Writer, director Ya’Ke Smith exposes the silent tale of sexual abuse in church

In September 2010, megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long faced allegations that he sexually molested several young men who belonged to his suburban Atlanta church, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Reaction to the allegations ran the gamut of emotions. The lawsuits were eventually dismissed and settled out of court.

Ya’Ke Smith, a professor and filmmaker hailing from Texas, coincidentally was writing a script about sexual abuse in the church. His latest project, WOLF has received both acclaim and criticism at film festivals across the country. Here, Smith talks to rolling out about the project. –tony binns

How did you choose this subject to do a movie about?

Well, I’ve been a part of the church for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the church as a youngster I heard of these things happening to people and even have a few friends who have been victims of sexual abuse. I felt it was time for their voices to be heard.

How has the film been received in the wake of the Bishop Eddie Long case?

The interesting thing about that is I started writing before the Bishop Eddie Long thing happened. And literally right after I finished the first draft of the script, the story broke.  So, I started to do more research into that case and lo and behold things that happened in that case — things that I heard during that case — watching and researching it, of course, ended up in the film. But my church, New Creation Christian Fellowship of San Antonio, Texas, has been so supportive. Bishop Copeland opened up the doors of the church — we filmed there — because he felt it was time for this subject to be brought out of the darkness. There have even been requests from other churches to screen the film. So I’d say the reception has been mostly positive.

How has the film festival circuit responded to the film?

It has been very positive. Yeah, you have people who don’t necessarily like it. They think it is too in-your-face. But a majority of the people has been very receptive to it and that really makes me feel good. After every screening I have someone who comes up to me and hugs me and says, “Thank you for making this film.”

Wolf will be showing at the Atlanta Film Festival on Monday, March 18, 2013 at the Plaza Theatre. Click here for more details or visit atlantafilmfestival.com.

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