7:30 PM, 23rd March, 2017
PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH ANU MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES INSTITUTE
Hidden Figures is the true and untold story of Katherine Johnson, the African-American mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.
Set in 1969, the film begins with Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, working in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center. After the Russians successfully launch a satellite into space, NASA is left desperately playing catch up in the Space Race. Using their calculations, the unlikely trio helped John Glenn become the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of Earth.
Hidden Figures is gorgeous and colourful, highlighting the 1960s aesthetic, through fashion and the glamour of the Space Race. However, it is contrasted by the cultural attitudes towards not only women in the workforce, but towards segregation of African-Americans at the peak of the civil rights movement, after the assassination of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr only a year prior.
The all-star supporting cast, including Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons, are quite simply outshone by the exceptional performances of Taraji P. Henson as Johnson, Octavia Spencer and the outstanding, breakthrough performance of musician-turned-actress Janelle Monáe.
This film is funny and sassy but, more importantly, Hidden Figures commands our attention and respect for these incredible women who, despite insurmountable discrimination, were fundamental in the Apollo missions, for which they are finally receiving the acclaim they deserved.