WATERVILLE — A few years ago, Caleb Baker visited 17 of the Macaronesian Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa and Europe and owned by Portugal, Spain and Cape Verde.

He became taken, not only with the beauty of the Cape Verde islands in particular, but also with their people, culture and the stories they told of relatives leaving the islands to work in places including New Bedford and Brockton, Massachusetts, to earn money to send back to support their families.

Baker, 34, of Hallowell, kept going back, particularly to the island of Sao Nicolau, or St. Nickolas, also affectionately known as Chiquinho, where he filmed most of “Portraits of Chiquinho,” a 12-minute film being shown as part of MIFFONEDGE at the Maine International Film Festival.

The film, narrated by the islanders, is exquisitely shot and illustrates the struggle Cape Verdeans face when deciding whether to stay on the islands, where it is difficult to live and get by, or leave and go far away to earn money. The feeling they experience is commonly referred to as “saudade.”

“It basically means a nostalgia or longing for something that’s no longer there,” Baker said. “There are more Cape Verdeans living abroad than in their own country.”

Baker was speaking Saturday afternoon at MIFFONEDGE’s location at the old Post Office Square on Main Street, where the public is invited, free of charge, to experience his and several other artists’ works every day of the film festival, through July 21. An opening reception was scheduled to be held at MIFFONEDGE at 8 p.m. Saturday.


Caleb Baker, of Hallowell, stands on Saturday next to photos he shot during his travels in Cape Verde. The photos were displayed at Post Office Square in Waterville as part of the MIFFONEDGE Volume 7 event. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

Other artists featured are Susan Bickford, with “(stillness) 18,” a five-screen video installation in the large rotunda as one enters the building, featuring people in white taking a dreamy, ceremonial, pastoral journey through a field to reach a lake.

Audrey Harrier’s “Lavender” is billed as a “multi-sensory song cycle that celebrates how memory shapes and guides us”; Narcissa Gold’s “My Body is Your Body is Everybody is Nobody: Consent, Intent and Boundaries,” is a series of live interactive performances that explore specific methods of touch; “Longing for Other Worlds,” by Heather Lyon, is a two-channel, site-specific video installation that incorporates video projection, props from those videos and rope; and Julie Poitras Santos’ “Walking Backwards (Birger’s Walk)” is a video set in 17th-century Sweden that weaves together imagery from performances in a ropewalk and surrounding landscape.

Baker’s film is inspired by the book “Chiquinho,” written in 1936 in Portuguese, by Baltasar Lopes da Silva, and published 11 years later, in 1947. For 83 years, there was no English translation of the book, though it has been translated recently, according to Baker.

“There is a strong connection between Cape Verde and New England,” Baker said. “Many people would come to America to better support the family and not everybody can do that; and this piece, in a way, allows me to bring some of the people that I’ve met back to New England, and I feel fortunate to try to be a bridge between Cape Verde and New England.”

There are 10 Cape Verde islands, nine of which are inhabited, and they were discovered and settled by the Portuguese in the 15th Century.

Using five cameras, including one on a drone — Baker is a licensed drone pilot — he shot stunning images of the people, mountains and ocean. The film runs for audiences in a continuing loop throughout the hours MIFFONEDGE is open during the festival.


Also part of his exhibit are framed photographs he took of the people he filmed.

Born in Waterville and raised in Norridgewock, Baker graduated from Skowhegan Area High School in 2003, earned a degree in psychology in 2007 from St. Michael’s College in Vermont and then a law degree from Western New England University School of Law, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Between college and law school, he worked in the mental health field and now works for Disability Rights Maine; but his real passion now, he said, is in filmmaking and expressing himself through film.

“I’ve always supported myself through my art, just not financially, yet,” he said. “It’s becoming more and more clear that this is what I need to do.”

His MIFFONEDGE film is the first public showing of one of his works, other than on his website, according to Baker.

“I play guitar and dabble in other instruments,” he said. “I always found that, with music, my favorite was arrangement as opposed to writing a melody; and that has transitioned well into my video work, because it’s all about arranging the video clips and shots in the way that’s the most powerful and making decisions about what’s important and what I can live without in the film.”

As for his work in Cape Verde, Baker said he feels fortunate to have the opportunity to show the faces, places and voices of the people he met there.


On Saturday, Bob McLaughlin, of Skowhegan; his son, Tim McLaughlin, of Portland; and Ryan Moody, of Skowhegan, were seeing Baker’s film for the first time. Tim McLaughlin and Moody are old friends of Baker’s and said they have seen many of his works. “Portraits of Chiquinho,” they said, was fantastic.

Bob McLaughlin said he thought the film was beautiful.

“Of course, I’ve known Caleb since he was a child. He does the filming, and the editing is so tight. It didn’t let me go, throughout. It grabbed my heart and just held it, the whole way through.”

Jessica Shoudy, curator of MIFFONEDGE and assistant director of both the film festival and the Maine Film Center, said all of the MIFFONEDGE artists hail from Maine.

“We’re saying that it (MIFFONEDGE) is sort of the intersection of film and art,” Shoudy said. “It’s the place where artists and filmmakers meet.”

MIFFONEDGE will be open noon to 7 p.m. Sunday; 2 to 7 p.m. Monday, with Gold’s presentation, part 1, at 8:30 p.m.; 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday; 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, with Gold’s presentation, part 2, at 8:30 p.m.; 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday, with Gold’s program, part 3, at 8:30 p.m.; 2 to 7 p.m. Friday, with Bickford’s program, and foraged d’oeuvres, at 8 p.m.; noon to 7 p.m. July 20, with Harrier’s program at 8 p.m.; and July 21, noon to close.


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