Tom Bell films musicians Namory Keita, left, Orson Horchler and Ray Sapirstein for his documentary, “An Exceptional Place,” about WMPG. The film will be shown at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, at Space Gallery in Portland. Contributed / Tom Bell

Tom Bell’s stint as a show host on WMPG a few years ago caused him to view the community radio station in a whole new light.

The Yarmouth resident was amazed, he said, by the diversity and sense of community the University of Southern Maine radio station had cultivated.

“Today, everyone is in their separate silos, and here is a place where people are different, but united by a shared love of radio and a passion for music. They’ve got 200 people keeping it running around the clock,” Bell said.

Bell’s 30-minute documentary on WMPG, “An Extraordinary Place,” will be screened at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, at Space Gallery in Portland.

As host of “Let’s Connect Greater Portland” in the fall of 2022 as part of his work as the communications director for the Greater Portland Council of Governments, Bell looked around him and saw a documentary in the making. It began as a personal passion project and grew from there, he said.

“It became a big project because I had so much material,” Bell said.


The documentary features students and community members alike, and explores the special connections each of them have to the 50-year-old station and what it represents to them.

Greg Bazinet from Back Bay Connections records audio from Cody O’Brien. The documentary profiles a group of DJs who have cognitive disabilities and share their love of music every Saturday morning on their show, “Unique Perspectives Radio Hour.” Contributed / Tom Bell

“People get emotional about the station and have really strong feelings,” Bell said. “I was surprised by how emotionally attached people were to it.”

Kestrel Wilcox, a USM student with Asperger’s Syndrome, speaks in the documentary about how her work at WMPG has helped her become more comfortable in socializing with other people and how it’s made her part of a community.

“Community radio is about inclusiveness and hearing different perspectives,” she said.

Rosita Reyes has been running her show “Latinos” on WMPG for about 25 years.

“I like to uplift people, especially women, and especially women in my Hispanic community,” she said. “It’s important that we as women know that we are capable of doing many good things, and we are doing it, but we don’t always believe it.”


Her show has connected her more with the growing Latino community locally and built her self-confidence, she said.

Frank Gallagher, a project specialist in the USM Office of Student affairs, says the film “showcases the people behind the microphone, taking viewers into the heart of the station and its community-first ethos. It is, by turns, laugh-out-loud funny and touchingly poignant.”

While “An Extraordinary Place” focuses on WMPG specifically, Bell said, it spans much larger concepts. The documentary touches on “universal themes like the passage of time, changing technology, how important community is and the passion for music,” he said.

Being involved in community radio is “being a part of something and getting out of your own world, which can be very isolating,” he said.

“There’s a lot of bad news and it can be overwhelming,” he said, but “a way to take care of yourself is to find people doing good things and be a part of that.”

A trailer for the film can be found at Reserve free tickets at

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