Sunday, 12 February 2017

Review: Hidden Figures

'Hidden Figures' the untold true story, which invites us to meet the women we don't know, behind the mission we do know.

It's based on Margot Lee Shetterly's non-fiction book 'Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race', which became a New York Times bestseller last year.

The book and the film follows three African American women, Mary Jackson, Katherine G. Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, who worked in various department's at NASA during the 1960's and beyond.

In particular the film is set during the early 1960's, and the United States' Space Race with Russia, to put a man in space.

The parallel that is drawn between the progress of space travel and the fight to make progress during the civil rights movement is excellent.

At times it really pulls at your heart strings, as these three women face barriers and discrimination, not just for being black, but for being women. All three face an uphill battle, but they kept going no matter what, it truly is inspirational to watch.

Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P Henson, has a number of emotionally charged scenes highlighting the level of discrimination.

The building Johnson worked in didn't have a "coloured" toilet for her to use, so she had to walk half a mile to another building to use the "coloured" restroom, which eventually results in one of the most emotionally driven parts of the film, delivering an emotion you can physically feel.

As someone born in 1991, living in 2017, it's hard to believe that this level of absurdity actually existed, this level of hatred, this level of disgusting abuse, based on the colour of someones skin.

More about the women...

Mary Jackson was a mathematician and aerospace engineer, firstly at the NACA, which became NASA in 1958. She worked for most of her career at Langley Research Centre in Virginia, and after 34 years at NASA earned the most senior engineering title available. She could have been promoted to a supervisor position, but took a demotion in order to work on improving equality at NASA.

Katherine G. Johnson is a physicist and mathematician known for her unmatched accuracy in computerised celestial navigation. She worked at NASA for decades and calculated trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths, for many flights for Project Mercury, which included the early John Glenn, and Alan Shepard missions. Johnson went on to work on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, and the Space Shuttle Program, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2015.

Dorothy Vaughan was a mathematician, who became acting supervisor of the West Area Computers. Vaughan prepared herself for the introduction of machine computers in the 1960's by teaching herself and her staff to programme the computers, she later headed the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division (ACD) at Langley Research Centre.

Hidden Figures has been nominated for 3 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Octavia Spencer, who played Dorothy Vaughan, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The film is also up for an award for Best Adapted Screenplay at tonights BAFTAs (British Academy Film Awards).

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