Hidden Figures – Director, Ted Melfi
Great movie! I really enjoyed this film. You can just sit back and enjoy a remarkable story about three black women who, in the early 1960’s, did the mathematics that let John Glenn orbit the earth. Math? I hear your cry. A movie about math? Well yes and a true story too. The film is set in Virginia at the NASA space center in the middle of the racist US south. It tells the story of a team of black women mathematicians who solved the problems of launching a manned space vehicle into orbit and brought it back to earth safely. John Glenn’s historic flight was totally dependent on the work of these women who were locked away in a segregated work room and posed the mathematical problems that needed solving before there were computers to do the work. They were called the computers and checked the work of the all male scientists working in another area of the centre. The breaking points came when the mission planning team needed someone who knew analytic geometry, that elevated one of the women to work with the male team (humiliating the men) and then the installation of a new IBM computer (which would take the jobs of the team of female computers) stalled. Again, it was the women who stepped up, learned the programming language and saved the installation and their jobs at the same time. One of the remarkable aspects of the film was the accepted segregation policies at the work place including washrooms, drinking fountains and coffee urns. It is an aspect of life at the time that we now find unbelievable but was common place at the time and is confronted during telling the story. The cast is great: Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and Octavia Spencer play the lead roles and are supported by the likes of Jim Parsons (Sheldon Cooper) and Kevin Costner and Kirsten Dunst among many others. The cast won the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast. Interestingly the film to win the SAG Ensemble Cast award has also won the Oscar’s Best Picture nearly 50 percent of the time. So….if you were looking for a dark horse candidate to beat out Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight this might be it.