Top Docs: Voguing in Northern England’s Ballroom Scene; Plus the Go-Go’s & WWII Codebreaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman

LJ’s documentary film reviewer picks four stirring new works, now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

The Codebreaker. 53+ min. PBS. 2021. DVD UPC NA. $24.99.
History sometimes has a way of burying its heroes in secrecy. For proof, watch this film about the remarkable Elizebeth Smith Friedman. One of the first cryptanalysts in the United States, she made important contributions in the First and Second World Wars with her codebreaking; she also helped battle organized crime in the 1930s, though she didn’t get credit. When her military accomplishments were declassified in 2008, it became clear just how influential Friedman’s codebreaking was. VERDICT Packed with fascinating elements, this film highlights the unsung accomplishments of a remarkable woman.
Deep in Vogue. 63+ min. FilmRise. 2019. DVD UPC NA. $19.95.
The wildly energetic vogue dance style is the topic of directors Amy Watson and Dennis Keighron Foster’s Manchester-set film. The work explores the history and importance of voguing among LGBTQ+ communities as a form of pure expression and freedom through dance. Featuring extravagant costumes, exuberant dance moves, and entertaining interviews with numerous people from the various “houses” who compete against one another, this is a joyous and uplifting look into the subculture throughout Northern England. VERDICT Fans of dance and those interested in LGBTQ+ culture will find much to enjoy.
The Go-Go’s. 95+ min. Polygram Entertainment. 2020. Blu-ray UPC 0243531076. $29.98.
In 1982, the Go-Go’s released Beauty and the Beat and became the first all-women group to have a number-one record. Their ascent to the top of the charts was so unexpected that it shocked even the band members. Alison Ellwood’s documentary tells the entertaining (and catchy!) story of a scrappy group of women who rose from the burgeoning Los Angeles punk scene to become stars of MTV and radio. Tales of substance abuse, relationship foibles, and intra-band feuding are all told with cheeky humor. VERDICT In the decades since their heyday in the early 1980s, the Go-Go’s haven’t quite been given the credit they deserve. This fast-paced, rollicking film attempts to rectify that.
My Mexican Bretzel. 73+ min. IndiePix Unlimited. 2019. DVD UPC 4563706425. $24.95.
Blurring the line between documentary and fiction, director Nuria Giménez draws on a treasure trove of home movies from the 1940s to 1960s that focus on a Swiss couple traveling around the world. When narration is added on top of the heavily saturated color images, the nearly silent film takes on an eerie, strangely hypnotic tone, as small moments of intimacy are revealed and audiences observe the stunning Swiss Alps and other beautiful locations. VERDICT Are the events portrayed in this film real? Does it even matter? That’s up to the viewer to decide after watching this dreamy, surprisingly philosophical experimental work.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing