'Hidden Figures' Inspires Historic State Department Education Exchange

Hidden Figures Student Screening - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of US Embassy of Chad

The Oscar-nominated movie is out of theaters but now at the center of an effort to promote education and careers for girls and women in science, technology, engineering and math.

Fox 2000's Hidden Figures, the Oscar-nominated film about black female mathematicians who helped NASA put a man into space but whose contributions were nearly lost to history because of their race and gender, may be long gone from theaters, but its impact is still being felt around the world.

For the first time in the history of the U.S. State Department, a Hollywood movie has inspired a publicly funded exchange program, #HiddenNoMore, that will bring 50 women working in science, technology, engineering and math in 50 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America to the United States.

“This movie has taken on a life of its own and sparked things we’ve never seen before," says Liba Rubenstein, head of social impact for 21st Century Fox. "From a social impact perspective, the enduring relevance of this film means there has been no end to the demand for partnerships.”

A few months after Hidden Figures' 2016 release, the State Department called Fox saying it was being deluged with requests for the film from embassies. In April and May, it was screened in an unprecedented 80 or see overseas locales.

That caught the attention of State's International Visitor Leadership Program, which has been around for decades. "We really wanted to build on the momentum," says Stacy White, office director of the IVLP, of the idea for #HiddenNoMore.

Participants will travel in October to Washington, where Fox will welcome them with a screening at National Geographic. After that, the women will break into subgroups and spend three weeks meeting with organizations across the U.S., including universities and the Girl Scouts, that promote STEM for women and girls.

They'll regroup in L.A., where Fox, which has donated nearly $400,000 to such Figures initiatives as scholarship competitions and free screenings, will host a two-day event for them on the lot. "Our goal is to get people from diverse communities talking about these issues," says White of the public-private partnership, "that are vital to long-term U.S. security and prosperity."

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.