Calculating the math of Hidden Figures

When I got an invite to the press screening of Hidden Figures, I actually thought it’s either a tearjerker movie about body consciousness, of women empowerment or a comedic book adaptation about shaping-up to breakout as a model. While I read snippets of news about it when it released in the US last December, I honestly didn’t have a clue what the buzz was all about, though I got intrigued as it got Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, and already won at SAG, among other accolades.

I realized that’s the best way to watch a film – clueless therefore having no expectation, leaving judgement only after seeing the entirety of it – and Hidden Figures is not quite what I assumed it to be. And yes, there’s lots of math – equations, calculations, and terms – that sounded too foreign it gave me a headache after.

True to its claim of an incredible story, this biographical drama about three female African-American mathematicians working at NASA is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, revealing the racism and division of 1961 America. Adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, it’s awesome not only for the geniuses being portrayed but because of the acting that made a rather sensitive yet timely issue of color and segregation seem pleasingly inspirational.

Hidden Figures owes its uplifting feel-good-ness to the acting prowess of Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Goble Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson. While the story revolves around these squad-goal friends of female pioneers, at a time when computers meant humans crunching numbers, it highlights the group of mostly women working behind the scenes at NASA, calculating complex equations by hand, to make sure astronauts such as John Glenn can travel safely to and fro space, under pressure of Russia beating the US to be the first. Sadly, it also bears the reality of how these girls, whose intellect and talents were undermined even ignored, were unfairly treated. Scenes that will surely get the ire of viewers, but will quickly be salvaged by a rather exhilarating and inspiring conclusion.

I couldn’t figure out the math speak (you probably won’t too), but don’t miss Hidden Figures to experience its awesomeness when it opens February 22 in Philippine cinemas. No chalking of equations needed to find out why Hidden Figures’ Is Now the Highest Grossing Oscar Nominated Film of the Year.

Your thoughts?