On Monday evening there was another Odeon Screen Unseen which is basically where you pay £5 to watch an advanced screening of a film. The catch is you don’t find out what the film is until is starts. Now to be fair to Odeon they do release a few (very) cryptic clues leading up to the viewing for you to try and figure out what it is and they have a separate Scream Unseen for Horror/Scary films – because you know not everyone is into that kind of thing.
This time however, the clever people on comments section of the clues were predicting Jackie – a film about JFK’s wife set shortly after he was shot, starring Natalie Portman and due for general release in the UK later this month. Sounded alright to me. That was not the film.
Turns out we were going to be watching Hidden Figures. My mind started racing – what the hell was this film about, the internet people got it wrong for once, oh wait, is it the one about the Holocaust denier?
No wait. There’s a coloured kid doing math and her parents are being told she is super clever. I know now it’s about the NASA guys and the Space race and unsung women who were part of it. This should be good.
I was right.
The film is based on a true story about 3 African-American women, Katherine Jones (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) who were all integral to NASA’s effort to send a man into space and then onto the moon and all the many challenges they faced.
Now being a millennial the Space race was well and truly over by the time I entered this world and while I have seen the footage of man landing on the moon (all conspiracy theories aside), watched the movie Apollo 13 and have even visited the Kennedy Space centre myself the space race will always be something I learnt about and so this film showed me a world I had no idea existed. I had no idea that back in the 60’s that NASA of all places had women working for them in roles other than personal assistants and receptionists – or maybe I’m being a naive millennial? Let alone a whole department of coloured women. Granted they were on their own side of campus and were segregated from the whites but they were still working there. .
What’s more this was a time where computers were people. Yes that is right my fellow young people, once upon a time a computer was a job title that involved doing calculations for a living and NASA needed a whole lot of the best ones if it was ever going to win the race. That is where we meet our 3 American heroes, in the ‘coloured computers’ division but it is not where they stay for long. For as Katherine so succinctly puts to Colonel Jim Johnson, we are not employed for our skirts but for our… glasses (OK this might not word for word right but you get the jist).
I won’t delve into the depths of the storyline anymore so that those of you, like me, who will never be old enough to remember the story is not ruined.
This film does what all ‘based on true events’ stories should do and shows us a different perspective of a particular moment in time. Hidden Figures does this particularly well showcasing 3 totally amazing and inspiring unsung heroes who until now resided in relative obscurity. These women were doing maths that most of us don’t understand or would at least need a calculator for in the heads and quicker than it would take for me to manually add up a grocery bill! They helped pave the way for women in STEM overcoming all the gender and race obstacles and they did all with a sprinkling of sass!
I Loved this film because it taught me about a world I didn’t know existed and made me feel grateful for the world I love in today. I loved this film because it satisfied my inner geek (more so my brother who is a maths teacher) and because it was funny and exciting, tense and everything a film should be. I left feeling warm and fuzzy but amazed about these women and with an intention to learn more about them (when I get a little time away from my thesis anyway).
So thank you Odeon for surprising us all with this magnificent gem of a film and I implore you all to go out and watch it for yourself.