4 items from 2017
Thirteen-year-old Taylor Richardson was so inspired after watching the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures that she set out to raise enough money for 1,000 girls to see the encouraging flick in theaters.
The seventh grader from Jacksonville, Florida, first saw the movie at The White House Hidden Figures in Space Exploration event in December during a special screening. Taylor, an admirer of engineer and astronaut Mae C. Jemison, grew up dreaming of space exploration and aspires to work for Nasa one day.
- Rose Minutaglio
Taraji P Henson leads a strong ensemble in Hidden Figures, a story of Nasa's past that makes for compelling and important cinema.
Cinema is good at this. At finding little known stories, and shining a beacon of light on them. In the case of Hidden Figures, arriving in UK cinemas off the back of Oscar nominations and a $100m+ gross at the Us box office, author Margot Lee Shetterly got there first; it’s her best seller that’s the basis of this excellent film. The movie adaptation does it proud.
The story here focuses on the space race in the early 1960s, specifically the moment where it looked as if Russia had firmly seized the initiative. As Nasa was struggling to get an American into space, Russia was having far more success, and the pressure was duly on.
That pressure in part fell on the shoulders of Al Harrison »
We know John Glenn's name. Having died at the end of 2016, Glenn's legacy as the first American astronaut to orbit Earth has been well cemented, and his name is right up there with the likes of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. We should know Katherine Johnson too, who, along with a team of black women at Nasa, helped Glenn make history.
If there is a silver lining to the great injustice of her story having never been told onscreen, it's that we have such phenomenal actresses to star in it now: Janelle Monáe as aerospace engineer Mary Jackson, Octavia Spencer as mathematician Dorothy Vaughan, and Taraji P. Henson, as Johnson herself, whose name was bestowed upon a research facility at Langley only this past year.
20th Century Fox
But Johnson's story, and Hidden Figures, begins decades »
The crowd-pleasing “Hidden Figures” might be based on a true story in an unknown chapter of American history, but not every detail was drawn from real life. The film follows a trio of Nasa mathematicians and engineers during the early sixties “Space Race” era, including Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson, but it also required the invention of at least one crucial character.
To create the fictional role of Space Task rroup director Al Harrison, screenwriter Allison Schroeder used three different Nasa past chiefs – including two of Johnson’s own bosses – to round out the character. She gave special attention to the inclusion of personality traits from John Stack, a lauded Nasa aeronautical engineer who Schroeder billed as “kind of this perfect chauvinist feminist,” a forward thinker who was compelled by finding the best person for the job, no matter their race or gender. »
- Kate Erbland
4 items from 2017
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