A Fireworks Spectacle for the Fourth of July
The National Pyrotechnic Festival in the small Mexican town of Tultepec is a remarkable celebration of celebration itself. Viktor Jakovleski expertly captures the impressive scale of the festivities through his masterful documentary, Brimstone & Glory. Utilizing a range of cinematic techniques, Jakovleski guides viewers on an experiential journey into Tultepec, culminating in an explosive, frenzied and caution-free ten-day event unlike any other in the world.
Brimstone & Glory has its national broadcast and streaming debut on the PBS documentary series POV and pov.org on Monday, July 2, 2018 at 10 p.m. (check local listings), just in time for the week’s Independence Day celebrations. POV is American television’s longest-running independent documentary series now in its 31st season. Brimstone & Glory is distributed in North America by Oscilloscope Laboratories. The film was funded by Cinereach and is a Court 13 and Department of Motion Pictures production.
The festival is more than just revelry for revelry’s sake. In a world increasingly characterized by globalization and efficiency, Tultepec’s cottage-industry of pyrotechnics stands out. The festival in celebration of San Juan de Dios, the patron saint of fireworks makers, offers an opportunity for artisans and craftsmen alike to show off their skills in ebullient fashion. Their technical virtuosity is apparent in the towering, whistling, multicolored explosions. Up-and-comers, too, create their own rowdy, lo-fi combustibles, including devices that shower crowds in frenetic sparks. Dozens of teams build larger-than-life papier-mâché? bulls to parade around the town square. The bulls are adorned with fireworks, set to blow up in all directions.
With three quarters of Tultepec’s residents working in pyrotechnics, the town is inseparable from the festival. The celebration anchors the population in a generations-old tradition of artisanal firework making. That business, though it allows them to make a solid living, is often characterized by danger. The festival, then, also offers an outlet for the inevitable tension that arises when working in such a dangerous field. The event transcends mere celebration and becomes a spiritual experience for many; residents feel that exposing themselves to danger during the celebrations will protect them throughout the rest of the year.
Tultepec and its National Pyrotechnic Festival, as depicted in Brimstone & Glory, are emblematic of the wider phenomenon of the Mexican fiesta and the lengths people will go to reach the zenith of joyful expression. As Mexican Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz writes about the Day of the Dead celebrations, “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.”
Through this unique display of joy and peril, of “violence and frenzy,” the residents of Tultepec seek to transcend themselves and their day-to-day lives. Brimstone & Glory allows for a similar transcendental experience. By using a combination of shooting styles—from crafting in-the-fray handheld photography, to filming 1,500 frames per second using high speed cameras, to slapping down GoPros to capture dynamic, previously unseen vantage points—Jakovleski offers viewers an immersive dive into a wholly unique community and its remarkable, spirited act of celebration.
“Brimstone & Glory is a transporting film,” said POV Executive Producer Justine Nagan. “Through dreamlike scenes and a heart-pounding musical score, we’re immersed in the pageantry and personal stories of those who quite literally give their lives to their craft and profession. We invite audiences to start their Fourth of July celebrations with us and this beautiful revelatory film.”
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About the Filmmakers:
Viktor Jakovleski, Director
Viktor Jakovleski is a Berlin-based filmmaker. Jakovleski spent four years making Brimstone & Glory. During the final shoot at the featured pyrotechnic festival in 2016, he was struck by one of the festival’s iconic bulls and was severely injured. Jakovleski’s next project centers around Berlin artist Julius von Bismarck and his dangerous expedition to the Catatumbo River delta in Venezuela, the area with the highest occurrence of natural lightning strikes in the world. Jakovleski has directed and produced videos for internationally renowned electronic musicians and produced the German feature film LenaLove. In 2015, he was named one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine. He served as contributing director to the documentary 11/4/08, which premiered at SXSW, and co-produced and assistant directed Benh Zeitlin’s award-winning Glory at Sea! (2008). He also attended the producing program at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin and for several years worked at Studio Babelsberg.
Director, Producer: Viktor Jakovleski; Producers: Dan Janvey, Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, Kellen Quinn, Affonso Gonçalves, Benh Zeitlin, Casey Coleman, Antonio “Tonitzin” Gómez, Erdem Karahan; Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan, Chris White; Producers for Cinereach: Philipp Engelhorn, Caroline Kaplan, Michael Raisler
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Produced by American Documentary, Inc., POV is public television’s premier showcase for nonfiction films. Since 1988, POV has been the home for the world’s boldest contemporary filmmakers, celebrating intriguing personal stories that spark conversation and inspire action. Always an innovator, POV discovers fresh new voices and creates interactive experiences that shine a light on social issues and elevate the art of storytelling. With our documentary broadcasts, original online programming and dynamic community engagement campaigns, we are committed to supporting films that capture the imagination and present diverse perspectives.
POV films have won 37 Emmy® Awards, 21 George Foster Peabody Awards, 12 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards®, the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award and the Prix Italia. The POV series has been honored with a Special News & Documentary Emmy Award for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, three IDA Awards for Best Curated Series and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers Award for Corporate Commitment to Diversity. Learn more at www.pbs.org/pov/.
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POV’s Community Engagement and Education team works with educators, community organizations and PBS stations to present more than 800 free screenings every year. In addition, we distribute free discussion guides and standards-aligned lesson plans for each of our films. With our community partners, we inspire dialogue around the most important social issues of our time.
POV Spark (www.pbs.org/pov/)
Since 1994, POV Digital has driven new storytelling initiatives and interactive production for POV. The department has continually experimented with web-based documentaries, producing PBS’ first program website and the first Snapchat-native documentary. It has won major awards for its work, including a Webby Award and over 19 nominations. Now with a singular focus on incubating and distributing interactive productions, POV Spark continues to explore the future of independent nonfiction media through its co-productions, acquisitions and the POV Labs, where media makers and technologists collaborate to reinvent storytelling forms.
American Documentary, Inc. (www.amdoc.org)
American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, online and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback to educational opportunities and community participation.
Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyncote Foundation. Additional funding comes from The John S. and James Knight Foundation, Nancy Blachman and David desJardins, Bertha Foundation, Reva & David Logan Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Chicago Media Project, Sage Foundation, Lefkofsky Family Foundation, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee and public television viewers. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.