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Extraordinary Ordinary People

Extraordinary Ordinary People is a sweeping celebration of the cultures of the world living and thriving in the United States.

At a time when the existence of the National Endowment for the Arts has never been more threatened, Govenar's documentary focuses on one of its least known and most enduring programs: the National Heritage Fellowship, awarded annually since 1982. Featuring a breathtaking array of men and women who have been awarded the fellowship, including musicians, dancers, quilters, woodcarvers and more, the film demonstrates the importance of the folk and traditional arts in shaping the fabric of America. From Bill Monroe and B.B. King to Passamaquoddy basket weavers and Peking Opera singers; from Appalachia and the mountains of New Mexico to the inner city neighborhoods of New York, the suburbs of Dallas, and the isolated Native American reservations of Northern California – each of the artists share exceptional talent, ingenuity, and perseverance.

Govenar began documenting the artists more than 35 years ago. The enormous breadth of his project, which also includes two 52-part radio series for NPR and three books, allowed him to explore in great detail the intersection of disparate cultures – many brought to our shores by immigrants over hundreds of years – with America itself. His film gives insights into how cultures endure, and how cultural expressions evolve but at the same time remain true to their roots in our 21st century connected world.

Some of the artists featured in the film include:

Sheila Kay Adams – Culture: Anglo; Tradition: Ballads, Musician, Singer, Storyteller
Rahim Alhaj – Culture Iraqi; Tradition: Composer, Oud Player
Loren Bommelyn – Culture: Native American Tolowa; Tradition: Artisan, Dancer, Musician
Laverne Brackens – Culture: African American; Tradition: Artisan, Quilter
Charles Carrillo – Culture: Hispanic; Tradition Santero
Clifton Chenier – Culture: African American, Creole; Tradition: Accordionist, Musician, Zydeco
Sidiki Conde – Culture: Guinean; Tradition: Dancer, Drummer, Musician
Sonia Domsch – Culture: Czech; Tradition: Artisan, Lace Maker
Qi Shu Fang – Culture: Asian, Chinese; Tradition: Peking Opera Performer, Musician
“Queen” Ida Guillory – Culture: African American, Creole; Tradition: Zydeco, Accordionist
John Lee Hooker – Culture: African American; Tradition: Blues, Guitarist, Musician, Singer
Wanda Jackson – Culture: Anglo; Tradition: Gospel, Musician, Rockabilly, Singer
Dolly Jacobs – Culture: Anglo; Tradition: Circus Aerialist
Flory Jagoda – Culture: Jewish; Tradition: Sephardic Musician
“Flaco” Jiménez – Culture: Mexican; Tradition: Accordionist, Conjunto, Musician
Genoa Keawe – Culture: Native Hawaiian; Tradition: Musician, Singer, Ukulele Player
B.B. King – Culture: African American; Tradition: Blues, Guitarist, Musician, Singer
Narciso Martinez – Culture: Mexican; Tradition: Accordionist, Conjunto, Musician
Lydia Mendoza – Culture: Mexican; Tradition: Musician, Singer
Norma Miller – Culture: African American; Tradition: Dancer, Lindy Hop
Bill Monroe – Culture: Anglo; Tradition: Bluegrass, Mandolin Player, Musician, Singer
Alex Moore – Culture: African American; Tradition: Blues, Musician, Pianist, Singer
Chum Ngek – Culture: Asian, Cambodian; Tradition: Musician
Clarissa Rizal – Culture:Native American Tlingit; Tradition: Ceremonial Regalia Maker
Earl Scruggs – Culture: Anglo; Tradition: Banjo Player, Bluegrass, Musician
Dan Sheehy – Folklorist & Former Director of NEA Folk & Traditional Arts; Mariachi Musician
Koko Taylor – Culture: African American; Tradition: Blues, Musician, Singer
Mike Vlahovich – Culture: Croatian; Tradition: Shipwright
Albertina Walker – Culture: African American; Tradition: Gospel, Musician, Singer

Played at

Music Hall, 12.01.17 - 12.07.17
Rated NR
Runtime: 84 min
Language: English

Director: Alan Govenar