If you haven’t been to the theater in awhile, I recommend a trip to see the Oscar nominated film “Hidden Figures”, not only to celebrate the films nomination, but for the historical significance of the true story.
The film is based on the novel of the same name, and reveals the untold story of female African-Americans mathematicians employed by NASA in the early 1960’s. The ladies who work for NASA in 1961 are Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), who works as a “computer” in the segregated West Area Computers of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), an aspiring engineer, and unofficial supervisor Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer). The ladies are feverishly working, as is all of NASA, to find a way to successfully send American astronauts into space after the Russians have launched a satellite into orbit. Due to the space race heating up, Katherine is assigned to assist Al Harrison’s (Kevin Costner) Space Task Group. Not only is a Katherine a mathematician, she is a brilliant one. Despite her genius status, Katherine is met with mostly cold shoulders in her new position, and is all but treated as a pariah by her co-workers.
The only one in her new location who seems to have any understanding at all is Al. Outside the office Katherine and her friends must deal with a segregated society, but have the comfort of their families and friends while the struggle for equality continues. As the work continues for the ladies, progress is slow and frustrates the astronauts, including John Glenn (Glen Powell), who is itching to blast off into space. In addition to the continuing problems, an IBM 7090 computer has been installed at the Research Center which could lead to the ladies being replaced. Feeling a sense of urgency due to the IBM computer, Dorothy takes it upon herself to visit the computer room and is able to start the machine. She is also able to read about FORTRAN (a programming language), and after learning about programming, is able to teach her co-workers in order to help save their jobs. Meanwhile, Katherine is able to win over the co-workers in her department, specifically her boss Al, and is directly responsible for calculating the information for a successful launch, and garners a personal thanks from John Glenn.
The film is a perfect way for many to see how tragic life was for African-Americans in the days of segregation. While, for most of us, that world seems foreign, we need to learn of this time in order to more appreciate the present. I really loved how the film celebrates the ladies responsible for helping send a man into space, and how their impact is still felt today. In fact, the real Katherine is still alive, and a new Computational Research Facility at Langley was renamed the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility. “Hidden Figures” is an uplifting and meaningful film that celebrates overcoming every obstacle in order to reach your dream.
(Rated PG) 4 rockets (out of 4)