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Award Nominees // Hidden Figures

Photo courtesy of ibm.com

One person can make all the difference. In the film Hidden Figures, that theme  of genuine inspiration shows how that difference can be as big as making it into space alive or not. Hidden Figures celebrates some of the people who made it possible for America to reach outer space, and later the moon, but their accomplishments have been far too often overlooked.

Hidden Figures tells the story of mathematician Katherine Goble (Taraji Henson), aspiring engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and unofficial supervisor Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer). Katherine’s math skills helped the Friendship 7 space capsule successfully exit and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, Mary was NASA’s first black female engineer, and Dorothy was NASA’s first black female supervisor. These three women helped America win the space race during the Cold War, yet their contributions are often neglected or underrecognized.

It’s impossible to ignore them this time around, though. Hidden Figures has already received an award for Best Cast from the National Board of Review, and made it onto their Top 10 Films list of 2016. At the Academy Awards, it’s been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actress.

At its core, Hidden Figures aims to both educate and entertain. The film is captivating and entertaining, first showing the audience the three women working in a racially-segregated Computers Division, solving difficult equations by hand with a group of other women.

All three women, despite their qualifications, face a severe degree of discrimination due to their race and gender, and the film doesn’t shy away from these topics. While Mary tries to register for classes to get her engineering degree, she finds they’re only available at a whites-only school, and Dorothy is kicked out of a library for looking through a whites-only section. In a pivotal scene, Katherine reveals to her supervisor, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) that she has to walk all the way across the research center campus to find a colored bathroom. The next day, Harrison knocks down the signs with a crowbar, abolishing the campus’ bathroom segregation.

If Hidden Figures has any notable flaws, it’s in its tendency to fudge the actual dates of events in order to better fit the film’s runtime, or in case of the film’s climax, to heighten the tension. But these inaccuracies don’t detract from its attention-grabbing and heartwarming story, or from the forgotten- or ignored- contributions of these essential women in American History. While Hidden Figures is an enjoyable film, it’s also an educational one, and it’s certainly not one to be missed.

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