Every year, residents of the Mexican city of Tultepec – better known as “the fireworks capital of the world” and a hot bed for the manufacturing of such small scale explosive devices – hold a pair of events in honour of San Juan de Dios, the patron saint of fireworks manufacturers. On one evening, a bunch of skilled, trained, and borderline insane technicians and artisans will create enormous towers of fireworks reaching towards the heavens. On the other, local residents will create flame retardant bulls packed to the gills with fireworks, light them up in the midst of occasionally nonplussed partiers, and have their own variation on the famed running of the bulls.
Utilizing modern technology and outright death-defying cinematography to exceptional effect, Viktor Jakovleski’s Brimstone & Glory is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and is one of the few documentaries that could actually wear the moniker of “it’s just like being there” perfectly. Impeccably shot – including a pair of noteworthy camera operators in documentarian Bill Ross (Tchoupitoulas, Contemporary Color) and Beasts of the Southern Wild filmmaker Benh Zeitlin, who also acts as a producer here – and boasting a lively sound mix that makes this a must to see on the big screen – Brimstone & Glory is nothing short of jaw dropping in scope and thrills. It’s assuredly not for anyone afraid of heights or fire.
It’s also a fascinating a look at a community where despite “peligro” (the Spanish word for danger) appearing on the side of nearly every house and shack, everyone seems to love what they do for a living. They have all felt loss and suffered injuries as a result of their jobs, but there’s a sense that most people living in Tultepec wouldn’t change a thing. That sense of good will turns the film into a party you’d more than gladly attend (preferably at a bit of a distance).