Movie Review: Hidden Figures

The American film “Hidden Figures”, which was made by director Theodore Melfi in 2016 and nominated for the Academy Awards in 2017, depicts the collaboration of three African-American women in “National Aeronautics and Space Administration” during the Cold War.

The main characters are Katherine Globe, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan. As they start working for NASA, they have to fight against segregation-based prejudices. Especially Katherine Globe has been doing mathematics since she was a little girl. She has three daughters and lives with her mother, who takes care of the girls when Katherine is at work. Her husband died some years previously, but the family still suffers from this incident. Later, Katherine falls in love with Jim Johnson to whom she also gets engaged. She is ambitious, self-confident and clever.

In the beginning, the three women are on their way to work, until their car breaks down. Dorothy repairs the car and they follow the car of a police officer who – to their surprise – wants to help them to be on time. Katherine works for the Space Task Group in which are, besides her, mainly white men. They do not want to accept a woman of color doing their job better than anybody else. Especially P. Steffort does not treat her very well because she is supposed to control his computations. In addition he does not trust her and that´s why he blackens all the data in the documents. Katherine needs them to calculate the exact formulae. Because of that, she holds the document against the light to find out how she can improve the computations. Al Harrison, leader of the Space Task Group is impressed by her achievements. When it becomes clear to him what segregation means for Katherine, he tears the sign from the white-women’s bathroom so that Katherine does not have to run the long way to the colored-women’s bathrooms everyday. Moreover, the USA stand in a race with the Soviet Union, which has already achieved to bring a dog and a man into space. Al Harrison invites Katherine to take part in the meetings after a discussion about whether she ought to participate. Especially John Glenn, who will be the first American astronaut orbiting the earth, is fascinated by Katherine´s talent. Before he starts the mission “Friendship 7”, which will be successful, he wants Katherine to control the data.

Dorothy Vaughan works in the colored section for computations. Because of her hue of skin she does not become advanced, but, instead of that, she could lose her job to a new computer system. When she is thrown out of a library with her two sons because she has searched for a book which is unavailable for colored people, she steals a book about computer science with which she learns how to code the new computer system. With these skills Dorothy becomes advanced and is allowed to save all her colleagues. As Dorothy and Katherine, Mary Jackson has to fight against segregation, too. She would like to study engineering but is not allowed to study because she is an African-American woman. When she gets a court appointment, she convinces the judge to allow her to attend the evening school. Through this, she becomes an engineer.

This film depicts segregation, sexism and the space race during the Cold War by telling the stories of three ambitious women all reaching their goals through hard work. They stand their ground against all prejudices and abasements. Furthermore, the political importance of NASA to the USA is conveyed.

I can recommend the film, because the abomination of racial segregation becomes clear. All three main characters have the best requirements to become part of the Space Task Group to support the space program, but nobody wants to admit that persons of color can do the same exigent work. This film does not focus on the first successes in space. This film makes the public pay attention to the achievements of all women of color and the importance of justice and equality which is relevant in society until today. That´s why the film can be recommended to everybody, because it combines political issues during the Cold War with the time of segregation, told by three powerful women who do not ask for pity, because they stand up against all kinds of discrimination.

Emely Meinschenck, 02.04.2019 (LK Englisch, Frau Weiland)