Ticket Information: Free and Open to the Public
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The National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec, Mexico, is a site of festivity unlike any other in the world. In celebration of San Juan de Dios, patron saint of firework makers, conflagrant revelry engulfs the town for ten days. Artisans show off their technical virtuosity, up-and-
comers create their own rowdy, lofi combustibles, and dozens of teams build larger-than-life papier-mâché bulls to parade into the town square, adorned with fireworks that blow up in all directions. More than three quarters of Tultepec’s residents work in pyrotechnics, making the festival more than revelry for revelry’s sake. It is a celebration that anchors a way of life built around a generations old, homegrown business of making fireworks by hand. For the people of Tultepec, the National Pyrotechnic Festival is explosive celebration, unrestrained delight and real peril. Plunging headlong into the fire, Brimstone & Glory honors the spirit of Tultepec’s community and celebrates celebration itself.
Edited by Affonso Gonçalves and scored by Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin, the creative team of Beasts of the Southern Wild.
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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. It was his Labyrinth of Solitude with its passage “The Day Of The Dead” that inspired me to explore the incredible phenomenon of the Mexican fiesta and the lengths people go to reach the zenith of joyful expression. Paz writes, “All are possessed by violence and frenzy. Their souls explode like the colors and voices and emotions… The fiesta is a cosmic experiment in disorder, reuniting contradictory elements and principles in order to bring about 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 something beyond comprehension. 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 the high-speed Phantom, to slapping down GoPros to capture dynamic, as-yet-unseen vantage points—we seek 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.
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Viktor Jakovleski is a Berlin-based filmmaker. He has directed and produced videos for internationally renowned electronic musicians and produced the German feature film Lenalove, which was released in selected German cinemas in September 2016.
Viktor spent four years making Brimstone & Glory, returning to the annual festival in Tultepec, Mexico, three times. In the final shoot in 2016, he was struck by one of the festival’s iconic “bulls” and was severely injured.
Viktor’s next project centers around Berlin artist Julius von Bismarck and his dangerous expedition to the Catatumbo Delta at Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, the area with highest occurrence of natural lightning strikes in the world, to examine and ultimately catch lightning by shooting rockets into storm clouds.
In 2015, Viktor was chosen as one of 25 “New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine.
He served as contributing director to the documentary 11/4/08 (2010), which premiered at SXSW, and co-produced and assistant directed Benh Zeitlin’s award winning film Glory at Sea! (2008). He also attended the producing program at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB) and for several years worked at Studio Babelsberg.