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Movie Review: Hidden Figures

Happy belated International Women’s Day everyone!, I was very happy to spend the afternoon with my mom, and watch such an inspiring story of determination, unity and human progress.  I must admit that between X-Men: First Class, Dreamgirls, and Hidden Figures the 60s are quickly becoming a favorite go-to era of mine where cinema is concerned. With respect to segregation, the red scare, and the approach to seeming difference in general, this era serves as an interesting mirror in terms of what lessons we have learned, and perhaps what lessons we have not.

Overall Hidden Figures is a story about determination in the face of prejudice and fostering the ties that bind. Through a retelling the stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson we are introduced to a lesser known trial of how these pioneers persisted and made a difference despite the obstacles of segregation. It’s a real heartfelt story about the sacrifice that trailblazers make and what the legacy of being “first” provides. Hidden Figures offers also an intersectional perspective on minority relations and hardship. Beneath the story of NASA in the context of 1960s segregation, there are clear parallels to our current debate on bathroom access for transgender individuals and our current dilemma with the rise in Islamophobia.

At the heart of Hidden Figures is a film and story about the true and total cost of prejudice. The silliness of propping up such traditions of segregation is really anchored in the film when you see the talent that the separation has potentially squandered away. In light of the themes of Hidden Figures and the mission to space that it overlooks, I was reminded of an article titled “Earthrise – a Mythic Image of Our Time.” When John Glenn gets to space, and we see the globe in its entirety, you can’t help but be reminded of humankind’s unitary fate.

There is also an interesting sub-theme of our symbiosis with technology and by extension “the other/unknown.” We see Dorothy Vaughn’s exploration into the Fortran language and the emergence of one the first IBM computers. A subtle yet poignant parallel is drawn between both minority and machine being a threat to job security. Most of this is in fact the driving force between the prejudice seen in the film as job scarcity, perceived talent, and “seniority” appear to be at odds with inclusiveness and exploration. In the end the impulse and benefit of “working with” wins out over “working against” and it really is the most timely and beautiful message to have.

Overall Hidden Figures felt like a spiritual prequel to film Apollo 13, just far less boring and with a strong message. Although it was not without its slow parts, the film is an enjoyable family friendly conveyance of a story that is relevant and timely given what we face in our current political environment. I left the theater feeling driven by my own personal hardships, and a bit proud and hopeful for humanity. This is something I think is sorely needed at this time, if you haven’t seen Hidden Figures, I strongly suggest you do. I am sure you’ll walk out feeling the same way.

Overall Rating 9.5