In Tultepec, Mexico, making dazzling explosives is a way of life for the community. Nearly every building in this tightly knit town is emblazoned with the word “PELIGRO” — danger. Old men fit fuses into fireworks with the two fingers and nubs they have left. A little boy flinches each time one of the other kids working in the makeshift factories sets a stick of fireworks down too fast. In Viktor Jakovleski’s doc Brimstone & Glory, we hear the child say that one lapse in attention could destroy the whole town, and yet here all these people are, getting ready for the National Pyrotechnic Festival, an otherworldly display of explosives. Thousands flood the fields and streets to watch castle-like towers of fireworks spin and spark, and Jakovleski gets us right into the action, mounting a camera to the helmets of technicians, who climb the towers, risking life and limb as their skin is seared.
If these scenes of slow-motion wonderment weren’t enough to get your heart pounding, Jakovleski then follows the crowds for their version of the running of the bulls — giant, elaborately constructed paper bulls filled with explosives are pushed through the streets while the crowds begin lighting them up, sending luminescent spirals and fire everywhere. People are burned and scarred and screaming in the streets, and the boy tells us that this whole thing is “for people to feel something and take something away with them, like a scar or something.” These people accept the consequences of living like there’s no tomorrow. They stand awaiting their fate in a rain of fire. And now we can feel a little bit of that, too.
Brimstone & Glory
Directed by Viktor Jakovleski
Opens November 22, Quad Cinema