Thursday, January 26, 2017

'Hidden Figures' Tells a Remarkable but Forgotten Part of NASA History

Hidden Figures is a biographical film that tells the remarkable story of Katherine G. Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle MonĂ¡e), a trio of intelligent African-American women who worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the late 1950’s, when the Space Race and the Civil Rights Movement were in their early years.  The movie follows how the three friends struggled with the prejudice of their era to help NASA take the first step in overtaking the USSR space program in the Space Race as well as pioneer the professional advancement of women of color.

As a kid, I loved everything about the outer space and space travel.  I even wanted to be an astronaut at one point.  Thus, believe me when I say that I read a lot of books about the subject, including the history of space travel.  However, I can’t remember about reading about these ladies, especially Katherine G. Johnson, who, as the movie depicts, has a significant part in sending all those NASA rockets to space.  So this movie is somewhat of a revelation to me – this is an important aspect of history which I’ve only learned now.  But, as what the movie reveals, that must not come as a surprise, as her skin color and sex prevented her from getting the credit due for her work during that period.
It’s well-acted and well-written, organizing and exploring the women’s plotlines in a way that respectively makes each one investing and rewarding.  And though the movie has a heavy message to tell, its narrative and tone never felt heavy, always amiable.

Thus, I consider Hidden Figures a terrific achievement of cinema, not because it’s technically groundbreaking, but because it gives an overdue recognition to people who provided key yet overlooked contributions to a pivotal point in history through a pleasing, entertaining manner.

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