20th Century Fox hosted a special event at The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) featuring scenes from the space-race drama, about African American engineers who made the moon landing happen while confronting segregation in the United States.  The film will star Janelle MonaeTaraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer, and is based on the adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race that is available for pre-order now and will be published in September by HarperCollins.

TIFF worked with 20th Century Fox to create an official event titled Hidden Figures Live that gave the TIFF audience a 30-minute glimpse of footage from the film. After the screening, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey moderated a Q&A with the cast and Pharell Williams, along with producer Jeno Topping. The film’s director, Ted Melfi was unable to attend the event; however, he introduced the film via video.

Spencer portrays Dorothy Vaughn, a computer repairperson who trained herself to program FORTRAN, and later trained all the black and white women at NASA. During the Q&A she noted that no women were mentioned as being part of NASA in Apollo 13. She went on to say, “I’m sad that Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson (portrayed by Monae) won’t be here to see this thing; however, I’m excited that Katharine Johnson will.”

Henson shared the fact that she didn’t know these women’s stories while growing up and stated, “I’m a girl from the hood. When you come from a place where you have no dreams, no hope, all that you see is that people who look like you don’t belong, that they have no place in society, right? This story is important, this story is so important. If I’d known about these women coming up, maybe I would have aspired to be a rocket scientist. Who knows…Not to say that I’ve had a bad journey, but what I’m trying to say is that nowadays, this is all that kids of color think they have. Sports. Rap. Acting. And there’s so much more important work to be done, and to be a part of product like [Hidden Figures], that will give children hope to dream a different dream

She went on to say, “We see what’s going on in society now, right? It shouldn’t matter what god you celebrate, what color your skin is, who you go to sleep with at night, who you say ‘I do’ to — this movie represents what we should be thinking. How do we make this place better?

Grammy-nominated singer Monae, reiterated the importance of the story. “Hidden Figures transcends race,” she said. “When I see them, I just see heroes. I’m proud as a woman and I’m proud as a minority but I’m also proud as an American. They’re superheroes but they’re real.”

The film will receive an awards qualifying release in December with hopes that it might be one of the films to prevent another #OscarsSoWhite controversy for the third year in a row.

Hidden Figures will be released nationwide January 2017 (MLK weekend).  Check out the fascinating blog for Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures, and you can pre-order your copy of Hidden Figures HERE.