“Hidden Figures” is a story of brilliance, it is a story of perseverance, strength and crossing: the feminine protagonist trio of the movie crossed all gender, professional and race lines, moreover they inspired generations to dream bigger and bigger. Ted Melfi (also known for “St. Vincent”) recounts the real happenings behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. The movie is set in the 60s, the USA were racing against Russia to be the first to send a man in the space; at the heart of this stunning achievement there were three determined women: this is precisely the real untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer, Oscar nominated for performance) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae).
Three brilliant Afro-American women working at NASA, what could be more challenging and provoking during those years? In the feverish competition of the space race, what stands out the most is the fascinating work of these heroines, who achieved, thanks to their extraordinary abilities, to launch a man into the space and, most of all, to make him come back home safely.
They were called “human brains”, great mathematicians: the actresses who performed them stated that it has been really hard to learn and repeat all that technical and mathematical stuff: Henson said that she memorized and learned as she was memorizing a choreography, because she is not “a scientist” and so all the specific words and concepts of the field were really difficult to assimilate. Monae, in an interview, expressed the pressure they were feeling about the script and the characters: “Sometimes we [in the film] are objectified, but these women were directly responsible to make Glenn come home safe”. In the same interview, the three actresses affirmed that they worked together for a long time, and for this reason they called each others “sister”: they were stronger together, in the most important role of their career.
When Taraji P. Henson was asked if she knew the story she answered that she had no idea of what occurred, but from the very moment she was told about the script she asserted: “This became my passion project. I was like, ‘I have to do this movie’”. Spencer, on the other side, thought that it was fiction: “It is an embarrassment that these women were omitted from the annals of history. I’m excited because the world will finally know these names”. In fact, one of the official hashtags of the film is #NotHiddenAnymore: it perfectly expresses the entire mood of the movie, and proposes a profound reflection to whom never heard about Katherine, Dorothy or Mary. “They will no longer be obscure”.
Pharrell Williams too proved to be enthusiastic about the project: he produced the soundtrack of the film, “Isn’t This the World”, among others. He revealed his deep interest by simply saying: “Here are the variables: three African American women, math, science, NASA. How do I not do everything in my body to be a part of this project?”
Special and unique characters, stellar acting and an inspired soundtrack: this is the secret for a successful movie, a biopic that is almost a semi-documentary for the themes and the characters described. A window into history, but also a dazzling piece of entertainment. The film not surprisingly won the SAG award for the astonishing performance as Best Ensemble: the strength of women is perceived through the screen, the vitality and the firmness of those who want to demonstrate their merits in a racist and sexist environment.
This is a stimulus not only for women, but also for everyone who has a dream and thinks that this world will never accept them: do not stop doing what you are good at, sooner or later the recognition will pay for the hard working and the sacrifices.