Review: ‘Hidden Figures’

Historical drama brings to light hitherto unknown geniuses behind the NASA space program.

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson)

Hidden figures is a true story of three African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role at NASA during the early years of the US space program. Set in 1961 when America’s Mercury space program was just getting off the ground, the film addresses the widespread racial segregation and sexism that were ubiquitous in American society at the time.

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer)

The movie is based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book with the same title and is directed by Theodore Melfi. The screenplay has been adopted for the screen by Melfi along with Allison Schroeder. This movie explores and focuses on the efforts of three devoted mathematicians Katherine Johnson(Taraji P Henson), Mary Jackson(Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) who have since then become of the symbols of the Civil rights movement.

Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer)

The film begins with Dorothy and her fellow carpoolers, Mary and Katherine, who all work at the West Area Computer division, at NASA’s Research centre located at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, where the “coloured people” are kept out of sight. The story arcs when Katherine gets a chance to serve as a “ human computer” for the Space Task group that mainly focuses on sending a manned mission to orbit. Together these women crunch the numbers that are critical for the space program’s future. In spite of their important roles in the entire program, the women are forced to submit to humiliating forms of segregation including separate rest and dining areas miles from the main office.

Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson)

Although Hidden Figures appears to focus on a single beating-the-odds story, the film sheds light on the universal and often insidious nature of racial segregation and sexism. Despite the odds, the lead, Katherin is able to meet her challenges with grace and spirit until things begin to change. She presses for recognition and, in slow steps, begins to receive it. It is worth mentioning that the real Katherine is still alive at the age of 98. She has played an integral role in various space missions and has been a part of many projects from the Apollo program to the space shuttle.

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