The history of NASA and the Space Race is a long and storied one, but one that often overlooks the contributions of the many women of color who worked to get a man to orbit the Earth. The trailer for the latest space-centered film is on a mission to end that trend.
Based on the book of the same name, Hidden Figures is a historical drama about the African-American women who worked at NASA. The film takes place during the Space Race, the period of time in which both America and the Soviet Union attempted to gain technological superiority and by the first to dominate space. The film specifically focuses on three mathematicians: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson who helped with the various trajectory calculations and tests during Project Mercury, culminating in John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth.
In the trailer, we see three African American women of great intelligence struggle against the glass ceiling of both their race and their gender. Being mistaken for maids, having their status as NASA employees questioned, even butting up against the traditional roles of being a mother and wife, all in the name of following their dream. Jackson sums up the conflict perfectly: “Every time we have a chance to get ahead, they move the finish line. Every time.”
The film is directed by Theodore Melfi, whose only other directing credit is for the enjoyable but often forgotten Bill Murray comedy St. Vincent. However, it is the acting prowess of the three leads that is sure to grab the most attention. Golden Globe winner Taraji P. Henson plays Johnson, the mathematics and physics prodigy whose calculations were invaluable to the success of Project Mercury. Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer and musician Janelle Monáe portrayed Vaughn and Jackson, respectively, Johnson’s friends and fellow scientists. Kevin Coster, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parson also join the cast as NASA employees who both help and hinder the main trio.
In the wake of a renewed interest in science and space exploration, this film chooses to focus on the historical rather than the fictional, to give credit to the real women who dedicated their lives to serving their country and helping man conquer the stars.
Hidden Figures is set to premiere in the United States on January 31st, 2017, just in time for Oscar season.