Brimstone & Glory

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

Brimstone & Glory: Filmmaker Statement

I strive to bring to cinema a kind of transporting sense of adventure. Through new images, colors and sounds, the goal is to explore fresh and vital worlds with thrilling abandon. In Brimstone & Glory we went on a voyage to capture the world of Tultepec, Mexico, its prodigious pyrotechnicians, their fireworks and the fiestas thrown in their honor. Our aim was to create an experiential rollercoaster ride through the explosions, fire and smoke.

Not long ago, I fell in love with the writing of Mexican Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz. His book The Labyrinth of Solitude with its essay "The Day Of The Dead" inspired me to explore the incredible phenomenon of the Mexican fiesta and the lengths people go to reach the zenith of joyful expression. Paz wrote, "All are possessed by violence and frenzy. Their souls explode like the colors and voices and emotions... The fiesta is a cosmic experiment, an experiment in disorder, reuniting contradictory elements and principles in order to bring about a renascence of life." It was also at this time that I learned of Tultepec from a Berlin-based artist who had visited the fireworks festival with his cousin, a pyrotechnician. The artist took photographs that he would later turn into paintings. Seeing these extraordinary images and hearing the outsized tales of his exploits made it impossible for me to resist visiting. The visual and aural experience of the festival was beyond anything I had imagined. It was visceral and all-consuming, intense and freeing.

Using a combination of shooting styles--from in-the-fray handheld photography, to filming 1,500 frames per second with a high-speed Phantom, to slapping down GoPro cameras to capture dynamic, as-yet-unseen vantage points--we sought to offer a viewing experience that most closely represents the feeling of being there. From the pyrotechnicians handcrafting fireworks to the townspeople dancing in showers of sparks, we use cinematic language to articulate how risk and danger are inseparable from acts of extreme revelry, and how such celebration is something fundamentally human.

-- Viktor Jakovleski