Ryerson alumnus Luke Galati is premièring his film SMOKEYSWRLD at the Regent Park Film Festival this month.
The short documentary tells the story of Toronto basketball player Kymahni Bent.
Bent’s brother, Jahvante Smart, also known as the rapper Smoke Dawg, was killed in a shooting in Queen West in June 2018.
SMOKEYSWRLD follows Bent as he reflects on his brother’s death and navigates his basketball career during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wanted to show a brother’s love and the connection these two had that people who aren’t from Kymahni’s community might not know about,” said Galati.
Galati first came across Bent’s story on social media and was inspired to feature a narrative he hadn’t seen conveyed in the mainstream media.
The name of the film is inspired by the phrase Bent frequently uses on social media.
“Whenever he posts about his brother or his motivation to play basketball, he always posts #SMOKEYSWRLD … to pay homage and show respect and love for his brother Jahvante Smart, so I thought it was a fitting title,” said Galati.
The documentary was shot in the summer of 2020, so Galati had to navigate COVID-19 protocols, including a smaller crew and shooting some segments outside.
The film was shot at North Toronto Collegiate Institute and Ramsden Park.
“It felt really good to get back out there and film, even with this obstacle that came our way,” Galati said.
Galati connected with Bent by getting to know him before the film.
“That really helped build trust and mutual understanding. I’m really grateful for him opening up to us and allowing us to tell part of his story.”
Alongside the universal themes of love and loss, Galati wants people to take some inspiration from Bent’s journey and determination.
“I hope that people see just how resilient Kymahni is,” he said. “He didn’t let setbacks or challenges that came his way deter him from achieving a goal.”
In August, Bent announced he would be attending Southwestern Illinois College for basketball.
As a basketball player himself, Galati took an interest in Bent’s experiences concerning the struggles he has faced in his athletic career.
For Bent, the pandemic prevented him from being shown to as many scouts and from travelling.
“In basketball, there’s all these challenges and obstacles that come your way and get in between you playing the game that you love,” Galati said. “That was something that I could relate to.”
The documentary is part of a collection at the Regent Park Film Festival called “Faces of Resistance,” which, according to the festival website, focuses on the stories of those who “defy the expectations and limitations placed on them by oppressive systems.”
Galati says that Bent embodies the resilience of this theme and the Regent Park community.
“It’s important that we have opportunities like this to come together and understand challenges that have come people’s way, but also to understand some of the beauty that has come from their lives,” said Galati.
Bent and his family are from the Regent Park community, so it was important to Galati that the film be shown there.
“Stories that are from a certain community should be reflected in that community,” said Galati.
He added that those without a deep understanding of a certain community should absorb these narratives as well.
“That’s how we get better stories told and how we get a better understanding of each other as people.”
Galati is a graduate of Ryerson’s journalism program and is currently a master’s student in the documentary media program.
He says he takes pride in being a filmmaker, documentarian and journalist. He aims to shine a light on under-represented perspectives and stories.
“I’m just really grateful that I’m able to do this project because I know it meant a lot to Kymahni. The death of Jahvante Smart, known by many as Smoke Dawg, was something that really shook a lot of people in Toronto and it was something that had a huge impact on many people in Regent Park,” said Galati.
Galati previously submitted his film Eastern to the Regent Park Film Festival in 2016.
The film, chronicling the story of an iconic Canadian high school basketball team, went on to win awards and would be broadcast nationally on TSN.
SMOKEYSWRLD is set to première online at the Regent Park Film Festival from Nov. 25 until Dec. 2.