Reasons for watching it: As soon as I started seeing this talked about on the internet, I knew I had to see it. What a brilliant idea to make a film about the African-American women involved in the technical aspects of the US developing manned space flight!
Circumstances of watching it: I wasn't at all sure I was going to find time to go to the cinema while this was on, and indeed the first date I set aside to see it turned out to be before it was showing locally. And then ghoti suggested taking Judith, who is really into space exploration and all things astronomy. I had thought the film would probably be too talky and generally not interesting to a child, but lots of Ghoti's friends said similar aged children had enjoyed it. And she also managed to squeeze some time when we could go to a matinée together the last weekend it was in cinemas, yay.
Verdict: Hidden figures tells a great story really well.
I basically think every film should be this. Well researched, historically accurate accounts of the difference made to history by unsung heroes, with a clear sense of period and excellent acting. I appreciated Hidden Figures for many of the same reasons I was captured by Pride, though it's more distant from my own personal history.
Basically HF did everything right. Extraordinarily well cast, keeping the focus on its characters, and the story is constructed in just the right way to be exciting without being over-dramatized. I loved that it recounts the stories of three women, a mathematical genius, an early programmer with a mechanical flair, and an engineer. I loved that Katherine is a nerd but also a mother and a romantic, Dorothy is a natural leader, and Monáe's Mary is a very feminine, girly person who happens to be brilliant at engineering, so it's not at all about how the heroines are exceptional for liking serious, masculine things instead of trivial feminine stuff. All three protagonists have friends and families and communities and Dorothy works with a whole room full of African-American "computers". It's not about the token racial minority in an all-white cast, even though it's very clear that it's set in a white-dominated, pre Civil Rights world. I do agree with the criticism I've seen on the internet that the film somewhat unnecessarily inserted scenes where Kostner's white-guy character bravely defends the women against racism, when in fact the real history records that they advocated for themselves. But it wasn't a story about Harrison being a white knight, it was clearly the three women's story.
I also appreciated the bits of the early Civil Rights struggle going on in the background, and the way it tangentially touches the characters' lives, whether it's Mary having to sue the state to be allowed to study at an all-white school even though segregation has been legally ended at Federal level, or people known to the characters being involved in a racist bus attack. The script has a fairly intersectional sensibility, it is quite clear that some people have a problem with women doing technical stuff, and some people have a problem with African-Americans as colleagues, but the women don't have a choice which identity will affect how they're perceived. Also the segregation / racism stuff was a bit hard to watch with an 8-year-old who doesn't yet have much of the context, but I think we did all right in the end and everybody enjoyed the film.
Great sound-track, too, very poignant and apt use of mostly African-American music of the era. Also the end where they fade from shots of actors to actual photos of the historical people, especially the three real women, was so incredibly moving!
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