CITY PRESS REVIEW: The women who took us to space

2017-02-26 06:00

Johannesburg - There will be all sorts of questions ping-ponging around your head during this Hidden Figures. Such as: Why aren’t stories like these taught during mathematics class? What better way to teach children how numbers make sense of the world than with a story about how one woman had to get the numbers just right so that, when John Glenn went into orbit, the ground crew could get him back without turning him into a human torch.

Another might be: How many of these stories are about black women who have contributed to major and minor leaps forward in human development and who have gone unsung? Were it not for Margot Le Shetterly’s book, this one might have too.

This jaw-droppingly inspirational story is about a trio of women housed in the “coloured computers” section of Nasa. Katherine Johnson (Taraji P Henson) is a maths whizz. She is brought into the team trying to crack the space race and she in turn cracks the code for getting a man out of orbit. Meanwhile, her friend, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), is taking her fight to be the first African-American, female aeronautical engineer to the courts; and their colleague, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), has seen the future – in the form of a hall-sized IBM processor – and she’s learning to be the first to master it.

Together, these three women make history. Caught at the crossroads of racism and sexism, their stories are all the more amazing for how they each find a way to work their way towards their full potential, often in spite of the people around them.

Starring as Johnson’s love interest is Mahershala Ali, who also stars in another of this year’s Oscar-nominated films, Moonlight.

There is nothing not to love about Hidden Figures. It’s a film that everyone’s daughter should see – and everyone’s son too – so that they understand that potential should not be limited by gender, colour or circumstance.

Hidden Figures is easily one of the most feel-good films I’ve seen in ages. It’ll make you cry and it will make you cheer. And you will never gaze into space again without acknowledging these women’s roles in taking us there.

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