The film is based on the book Hidden Figures – The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.
The main character is Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who in 1961 played a fundamental role in the Apollo 11 mission, which on 20 July 1969 took the first man to the moon; her task was to calculate the trajectories during the take-off and re-entry phases of the spacecraft.
The three women, all black, work for NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, in segregated Virginia; every day, they face a racist environment for which people’s intelligence and professional background depend on the colour of their skin.
I won’t tell you more about the plot: once you watched the trailer, I will tell you which aspects of the film I found most interesting.
What you can learn from this film
It is interesting to note that NASA did not realise that a computer like the IBM 3270 needs people capable of running it; in short, NASA bought a car without considering that it would need to hire a licensed driver.
A clear example of unconscious resistance to change.
And it will be the determination to change and defend the job that will save the trajectory calculation and perhaps the entire space programme.
Dorothy Vaughan is worried because she has realised that the supercomputer will make the whole team of women dedicated to numerical calculations redundant; hence, she decides to learn secretly to program in Fortran and train her colleagues.
The theme of the ‘quasi-leader‘ is also interesting; Dorothy coordinates a rather large group of women, but her role is not formally acknowledged: she is a woman, and her skin is black.
The racial theme is a bit “overloaded”, perhaps to capture the audience’s interest: the events involving the three main characters are so intense and involving that more realism would have benefited the story.
Not to be missed, especially if a film should also be a learning opportunity for you.