During the 6th annual short film competition at the 2023 Peachtree Village International Film Festival, JARO took pride in presenting a selection of over 40 finalists from diverse corners of the world.
The top honor of first place was awarded to In the Matchbox, a film written by Jermi Little and directed by Mike Rae Anderson. This gripping horror and drama, inspired by real-life events, delves into a perilous ancestral secret, spanning centuries, which holds the potential to impact the entire world.
The film, which was shot over one day in the dead of winter, is based out of Catawba County in Hickory, North Carolina. Anderson explained that the inspiration behind the story stemmed from Little’s own family history. “It became a story about the fact that our ancestors were exempt from slavery because we had the secret and the powers to destroy these beasts that were roaming around Catawba County.”
While deeply honored by the victory, Anderson was even more proud to win alongside Little and to have him experience the same level of success that he has often been granted throughout his years in the filmmaking industry. “He’s such a humble brother,” said Anderson. “I think what it takes is for someone to dig into you and pour into you to show you the greatness that exists within you. He deserves the opportunity to rise and become the king he’s supposed to be.”
Anderson’s personal journey is highly remarkable. As a former inmate who served 17 years and was once facing death row, it was within those confines that he managed to completely alter the course of his life. During his sentence, Anderson received two college degrees and wrote and performed plays with other inmates. “I had my own little rap group, and we won a talent show every year for five years. We call it the Prison Grammy,” he laughed. “But I found my greatness because it wasn’t being nurtured when I was coming up in the hood.”
After he was released from prison, Anderson was keenly aware of his life’s mission. Not only was he able to fully step into the power of his own creative gifts, but he also became passionate about guiding the youth towards using the arts for positive expression. He’s dedicated himself to steering them away from the paths that could potentially lead to incarceration.
Through his non-profit organization Polished Souls Foundation, his motto is every diamond in the rough is a soul that deserves to be polished. “Because if you allow somebody that has experienced it to nurture you, we can take you there or we can help you get there,” said Anderson. And for aspiring filmmakers, he offers the following advice: “Never ever allow anyone to negate what idea or what path you want to go down.”
To learn more about Anderson’s journey, purchase a copy of his biography A Polished Soul: The Mike Rae Anderson Story through Amazon.
In The Matchbox stars Mike Rae Anderson, Jermi Little, Chad Ayers, and Hawthorne James. It is currently available to stream for free on JARO.