‘POV’ all fired up for the Fourth of July
Now in its 31st season, the award-winning PBS documentary series “POV” will celebrate the Fourth of July holiday in appropriately festive fashion with its broadcast of Viktor Jakovleski’s award-winning documentary Brimstone & Glory, which airs Monday, July 2 at 10 p.m. (check local listings), with additional broadcasts July 3 and July 6. The film will be seen on UNC-TV.
For his feature documentary debut, Jakovleski brought his cameras to the Mexican village of Tultepec, renowned for more than a century for its making of fireworks and, just as significantly, the annual – and self-explanatory — annual National Pyrotechnics Festival, a 10-long celebration of all things pyrotechnic that attracts thousands of tourists from the world over.
Brimstone & Glory offers an in-depth exploration of Tultepec’s “explosive” history as well as a showcase of the festival itself, which is held in celebration of San Juan de Dios, the patron saint of fireworks’ makers. The majority of Tultepec’s citizens make fireworks, which bonds the generations – as well as offering an outlet for the pressure and tension that arises when working in such a dangerous trade. Accidents and mishaps are not uncommon, yet those who toil in the trade are well aware of the dangers involved. As a result, the annual festival offers them an opportunity, not to blow off steam, but to blow off fireworks. Indeed, the trade is so ingrained in the region’s culture that many consider the festival a spiritual experience.
Jakovleski spent four years working on the film, and during the 2016 festival on one of the last days of shooting, he was struck by one of the famous papier-mache bulls that are paraded around the town square and adorned with dozens of fireworks and seriously injured himself – but he kept the cameras rolling.
“Brimstone & Glory is a transporting film,” said POV executive producer Justine Nagan in an official statement. “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.”
In his review for Variety, critic Dennis Harvey called the film “Eye candy that’s a nutritious, full meal … a poetical, entrancing documentary that should delight niche viewers across many cultural borders.”
Since its theatrical release, Brimstone & Glory has amassed awards by the score, winning Best Picture and Best Director at the 2017 Austin Fantastic Fest, winning the Golden Gate Award at the 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival, winner of the Art Doc Award at the 2017 Sheffield International Documentary Festival, winner of the John Schlesinger Award at the 2018 Palm Springs International Film Festival, cited as among the top five documentaries of 2017 by the National Board of Review, and given a special citation by the 2017 San Francisco Film Critics Circle, to name a few.
“I strive to bring to cinema a kind of transporting sense of adventure,” Jakovleski said in his official statement. “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 voy age to capture the world of Tultepec, Mexico, its prodigious pyrotechnicians, their fireworks, and the fiestas are thrown in their honor. Our aim was to create an experimental roller coaster ride through the explosions, fire, and smoke. 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.”
For more information, visit the official “POV” website.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2018, Mark Burger.