The Doko Film Fest was created in 2018 by Ray Smith in partnership with Bravo Blythewood, a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of arts in the area. The inaugural event was held in April 2019.

A leader in the academic world, Ray Smith began his career in the UK in the field of health care. He then moved onto Frankfurt, Germany, developing executive education programs for Deutsche Bank. His work brought him to the United States where he was Associate Dean for Executive Education at Duke University, a position he later held at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina (USC). While at USC, he designed and developed the concept of the virtual global classroom, using technologies to bring learners and faculty together from anywhere in the world. 

Today, Ray continues his work in business education at USC and  learning strategies for business leaders through his company, Learning with Leaders, and is executive producer and co-owner of Modos Media, producing documentary films for television.

His interest in filmmaking began in the classroom, where he realized the power of film to transport and engage the adult professionals he was teaching. “As an educator, I find filmmaking a great way to promote learning,” he says. “I like making documentaries because they educate, inform and stimulate the viewer to engage in the events portrayed in the film.” 

It was a documentary Ray made with his son Andrew that inspired them to create the Doko Film Festival. Their film was shown on PBS across the country and later selected for the Beaufort International Film Festival. That is when they realized there were few film festivals for high school filmmakers.

“Doko is a real film festival and also a sort of learning lab for the filmmakers,” explains Ray. “We will try to put students in touch with colleges and film professionals to help them get some ideas for their futures in film. It also promises to be lots of fun.”

"Doko" is believed to be a Native American name meaning "watering place," but has also been associated with the African name meaning "where the iron horse drinks." Both of these meanings are appropriate to the town of Blythewood, which was formally named Doko.  They were home to the Doko Depot that supplied water for the steam engines in the 1800's.