Brimstone & Glory
The ritual, danger and the beauty of fireworks is on display here in this award-winning documentary that captures a Mexican city's annual pyrotechnic festival.
"Tultepec is what you might call an “explosive” Mexican city — over two-thirds of its residents manufacture fireworks. Each year, the town’s inhabitants cautiously begin the dangerous work of crafting handmade fireworks for the annual National Pyrotechnic Festival that attracts thousands of spectators ... Director Viktor Jakovleski uses GoPros and a flying drone that soar high above, abstracting and widening the vista of the festival and taking viewers on a magical cinematic journey through the sparks and flames that ignite the night skies." (Hot Docs Festival)
- Viktor Jakovleski(feature debut)
Documentary, World Cinema, Festival & Independent
Rating: PG Some scenes may disturb
Spanish with English subtitles
Brimstone & Glory is a highly-recommended, adrenaline-charged feast for the eyes set in Mexico’s fireworks capital Tultapec. Depicting the preparation for, and then immersively entering, the town’s mammoth, mental, annual pyrotechnics festival, this documentary is a bombardment of all the things that make fireworks so alluring: beauty, fear, excitement, and a sense of can-you-bloody-believe-it.
Sitting inside a darkened cinema to watch fireworks may seem counter-intuitive, but while the big screen may be limited to two dimensions (and no smell of gunpowder) it provides the perfect place to settle in and be spurred into wide-eyed wonder.
When the film culminates with tons of footage of the foolhardy citizens of Tultapec taking the streets in close proximity to elaborately-constructed bulls boasting more firepower than Commando-era Schwarzenegger, the results are awe-inspiring and sanity-defying—beautiful slo-mo, and street-side war zone footage alike.
Before getting to that point, the film depicts powerful fireworks being made by hand (by adamantly non-chemists, at that) as well as huge, teetering, display towers climbed (thanks a bunch, Go Pro). And, yeah, both are a bit of a gut-churn in their own way.
At an economical 67 minutes, Brimstone & Glory certainly does not outstay its welcome. In that running time, the film also illustrates the importance of fireworks to Tultapec as a set of knowledge and traditions including rites of passage, while seeing an uncomfortably large number of low-rise handmade fireworks workshops dotted at a strategically safe distance from one another hints at an economic element. But mostly, this is about making, anticipating, and exploding, and while it may sound a bit like the stuff of a TV doco, giving this your undivided attention in a cinema can’t be urged enough.
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
NZ Herald (Toby Woollaston)
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)
Whoa! Whee! Wow!
Whoa! Whee! Wow! What a stunning visual treat. First-time director, Viktor Jakovleski’s documentary offers just over an hour of spectacular footage from the annual, week-long pyrotechnics celebration of San Juan de Dios in Tultepec, Mexico.
Ditching narration for full-blown immersion amongst the chaotic crowds risking danger amidst the dynamite. When it’s this beautifully shot, edited and paced, the imagery transcends language and you’re left in awe at the sheer crazy beauty of it all. Forget story, go give your eyes a treat, and remember the spellbinding wonder of seeing the world as an awestruck kid.