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Light and ashes –the combination of Jesus’ Transfiguration and Ash Wednesday result in a radioactive faith.
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Jesus crashed every funeral he attended, even his own!
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Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
–Review by Ashley Linne
This film is rated PG.
This movie combines two of my favorite things: strong women and space. Hidden Figures tells the true story of the history-making triumphs of three female African American NASA mathematicians: Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. The incredible story unfolds in the 1960s space race and civil rights era, and until very recently was totally unknown to the public.
Given the serious nature of the cultural backdrop, this film is anything but solemn. The optimism, humor, and determination of the three main characters are contagious. These women are bona fide heroes, but also extremely relatable. The challenges they face are universal for women yet particular for them as women of color, and their incredible strength to overcome is inspiring. The soundtrack is just as buoyant. Hidden Figures includes all the formulae of an enjoyable film. But don’t be fooled into thinking it is a “chick flick.”
The title of the film invites the audience to search beyond what seems obvious. To this end, the filmmakers utilize both dialogue and silence throughout the movie. A couple of central lines of dialogue center around “looking beyond.” Al Harrison, Katherine’s gruff but ultimately supportive boss played by Kevin Costner, says to her, “What I’m asking everyone one in that room to do, all my geniuses, is to look beyond the numbers. To look around them. Through them. For answers to questions we don’t even know to ask.”
This film deserves more than one viewing to be unpacked from a semiotic standpoint. I’m sure there are many gems waiting to be uncovered: for instance, the use of color (our three main characters are frequently dressed in vibrant colors, which makes them stand out against the sea of white button-up shirts of their costars; thus, the women are hidden in plain sight). We don’t have space here to explore all the imagery, but two images surrounding Katherine’s character did stick with me well from the start.
Chalk. Twice in the film, once as a child and again as an adult, Katherine is handed chalk and invited to work out complicated equations on the chalkboard. The shot zooms in on the handing of the chalk from the male authority figure to Katherine. This action really spoke to me. The chalk served as a symbol of authority and sharing knowledge. These men were empowering Katherine to do what they knew only she could do. I wonder how many “hidden figures” are in our churches, waiting to be trusted and supported by those of us in authority. It’s frequently stated throughout Hidden Figures that the limitations and barriers of their culture are “just the way things are.” What status quos in our churches need to be challenged? Who are the people ready for the next step, just waiting for a mentor to “pass the chalk”? read more…