Brimstone & Glory

PBS Premiere: July 2, 2018Check the broadcast schedule »

Brimstone & Glory: Film Update

In June 2018, POV asked Brimstone & Glory filmmaker Viktor Jakovleski what's happened since the cameras stopped rolling.

Was this your first time in Mexico? Tultepec?

Yes. I had never been to Mexico before in my life. I got to know the country, and specifically Tultepec, in the process of making the film. I did read Octavio Paz's Labyrinth of Solitude though, which provided me with some deep knowledge about certain aspects of Mexican culture, as well as the psychology and meaning behind the Mexican "fiesta."

What was your favorite part about the festival, or your overall experience? 

The amount of energy, passion and dedication that the people of Tultepec put into their celebrations is one of the most heartwarming and inspiring things I have ever witnessed. Fireworks are the town's main source of income, but also their pride and joy. I loved observing the people getting creative to celebrate this tradition and craft. Especially, the process of creating the bulls fascinated me. So much detail goes into these beasts, only for them to be burned in a matter of a few seconds or minutes on March 8 each year. There is something so deep and existential at the core of it that really stuck with me.

Were you afraid of the fire at any point? Did you get burned?

The burning of the bulls is an intensely ritualistic experience and so enormously dangerous that it's impossible not to be afraid, at least when you encounter it for the first time. Some of us got some burns. Nothing too serious though. We were lucky, or possibly guarded by the patron saint.

How were all your shots filmed? GoPro, etc?

We shot mainly with two Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras, one handheld and the other one rigged on a DJI Ronin gimbal. Additionally, we had a Phantom Miro slow motion camera that was able to film 1500 frames per second (the abstract, cosmic fireworks slow motion shots in the film). We also had a couple of GoPros to experiment and go crazy with, as well as a drone.

Did you learn how to make fireworks while you were there filming?

No, we were entirely focused on learning how best to film fireworks. We did have some amusing failed experiments in that vein, including a GoPro attached to a rocket that did not survive its flight.

How was the parade organized, if at all?

It's organized by a special committee that the town elects each year. It's actually very well managed. Getting several hundred bull teams to put their work on display over the course of the night is no small achievement.

Did you feel included in the community while you were filming? How did the community react?

Absolutely. People were extremely open and helpful once they understood that we respected their culture and traditions, and that we were trying to create a film that would honor the essence of it. I couldn't have asked for a better environment to make a film. We all fell in love with the community and have remained in close touch with several people in Tultepec.

What are you working on now?

I have a doc project about lightning and a fiction project about raving that I'm working on.