Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hidden Figures (film)

This time last year, I was about a month into a project to do a podcast episode every day about women in STEM. And I'd recently discovered Katherine Johnson, and through researching her I discovered Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. I immediately added these women to my list of who I wanted to feature on the podcast, along with a few other African-American NASA engineers.

Then not long after that, I saw the first news report about Taraji P. Henson joining the cast of a movie about Katherine Johnson. I found out about the book Hidden Figures, and I was incredibly excited. As the casting notices came in, I only became more interested in the film. I read excerpts from the book in my research (it hadn't been released by the time we'd done our episodes on each of the women, but the author's research was invaluable to our own).

Suffice it to say, this was a highly anticipated movie for me.

I was sad I wasn't going to be able to see it during it's limited release right after Christmas, but now I'm incredibly glad that I got to go on it's "opening weekend" because my ticket helped it become the top box office draw that weekend. Which is just amazing on so many levels.

But I'm here to do a review, so my review:

Go see this movie. As soon as possible. Preferably immediately.

The acting is amazing, the story is compelling, the art direction and design are perfect. As a historical drama, it hits all the notes it needs to. It felt to me like it didn't pull any punches, but it didn't set out to tell a tragic story but an inspiring one.

A true one.

And it accomplishes that with a skill and style that stories like this are rarely afforded.

It is above all an emotionally affecting movie. You feel for these women and you care about what's going on. In the theater I was in, there were cheers and applause throughout the movie, and a huge round of applause at the end. I've heard similar reports from people around the country, in many different demographics and regions. Audiences care about this movie, and it's easy to care. These women are inspiring, and not just because the actresses who play them are inspiring, but because they actually were inspiring. They've been inspiring me for a year now.

Even though I know exactly what the outcome is of the historical events in the movie, I still was caught up in the tension. And it was amazing to see a piece of history we've lost a piece of, a time when people came together to create science and math that didn't exist before. And the movie acknowledges that we did this because of fear of the Russians, but it also reminds us how much benefit we got from these geniuses, including the African-American women of the West Area Computers, being allowed to do what they do best. And they got us to the moon.

The movie challenges us to wonder what they could do now if we made that kind of effort again.

So go, just go. Go see it. Please. And take any kids you know to go see it.