“Every time we try to get ahead, they move the finish line” | Hidden Figures

By Rilwan Balogun

I think what I love most about movies is that it takes you to another place. Another world. Another era. Sunday afternoon, I was in Hampton, Virginia in 1963. Before I got into the time machine, that is movies, I had to get there. Anywhere I live, there has to be a theater at least 10 minutes away but I live in walking distance to one now. Walking into the theater, it was about 6 minutes before the movie started and surprisingly it was packed for a matinee.

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Hopper Stone/20th Century Fox

The crowd was a mixture of young and old, black and white. I was going to see Hidden Figures, the movie about the role African American women played in NASA. A story I never knew. Nor, did much of America. Anyway back to the theater. I was expecting to walk into one of those smaller rooms where they put a smaller movie. I also expected to be in a room of people that looked like me, black. Surprisingly with joy, I was wrong. The room was as a mixture as the lobby was. Young, old, black, and white were all in the same theater as I of learning the history of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe).

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Dorthy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson the real “human computers”. Bob Nye/NASA/Donaldson Collection/Smith Collection/GADO/Getty Image.

The movie opens to a little girl counting as she kicks a rock down a gravel road. We then are taken to a room where that little girl’s parents are being told just how bright and gifted she is. The story moves ahead to that little girl who now is an adult, Katherine Goble Johnson, working at NASA with a group of colored women known as “computers”. The movie is based on the true story of these women and how they got John Glenn to rotate around the world. I don’t what to ruin the movie for anyone who will see it but I want to share a few scenes that really stood out to me.

“You can probably get to the moon and back with this (access card) but not to the bathroom.”

I expected Taraji P. Henson, to be nominated for an Academy Award for this one scene. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the exact moment where you probably felt goosebumps. Grabbed the person next to you and felt as your eyes swelt with tears. I say that because I felt all of these emotions and did most of them, except grabbing the hands of my neighbor, but in this scene I wanted to. I wanted me and the white older woman sitting next to me to share this moment, like in the movies.

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Janelle, Taraji and Octavia in Hidden Figures. Hopper Stone/20th Century Fox

There’s a scene in the movie where the three leads are dancing in the living room after a few drinks. It was odd because it reminds me of an Apple commercial, which Henson is also a part of along with Kerry Washington and Mary J. Blige. It was simply, what they call it, #BlackGirlMagic, same as this movie.

Speaking about music. You can tell Pharrell was the composer on most of the music. Every song had a purpose. Every beat and genre of tune was used for a mission. The soundtrack put me in the ‘60s. I’m surprised it too wasn’t nominated by the Academy for best score.

Before I had to leave the time machine of movies, I had that feeling. The feeling in your throat just before the tears roll down your face. That’s how I felt watching this movie. Learning about the role African American women played in NASA. I wonder how many people of color and women will watch this movie and say, “I too can do that,” I’m grateful they are no longer hidden but I wish we saw them sooner.

 

**Click the Hidden Figures link at the top to view the trailer!

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