Brimstone & Glory is a highly-recommended, adrenaline-charged feast for the eyes set in Mexico’s fireworks capital Tultapec. Depicting the preparation for, and then immersively entering, the town’s mammoth, mental, annual pyrotechnics festival, this documentary is a bombardment of all the things that make fireworks so alluring: beauty, fear, excitement, and a sense of can-you-bloody-believe-it.
Sitting inside a darkened cinema to watch fireworks may seem counter-intuitive, but while the big screen may be limited to two dimensions (and no smell of gunpowder) it provides the perfect place to settle in and be spurred into wide-eyed wonder.
When the film culminates with tons of footage of the foolhardy citizens of Tultapec taking the streets in close proximity to elaborately-constructed bulls boasting more firepower than Commando-era Schwarzenegger, the results are awe-inspiring and sanity-defying—beautiful slo-mo, and street-side war zone footage alike.
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Before getting to that point, the film depicts powerful fireworks being made by hand (by adamantly non-chemists, at that) as well as huge, teetering, display towers climbed (thanks a bunch, Go Pro). And, yeah, both are a bit of a gut-churn in their own way.
At an economical 67 minutes, Brimstone & Glory certainly does not outstay its welcome. In that running time, the film also illustrates the importance of fireworks to Tultapec as a set of knowledge and traditions including rites of passage, while seeing an uncomfortably large number of low-rise handmade fireworks workshops dotted at a strategically safe distance from one another hints at an economic element. But mostly, this is about making, anticipating, and exploding, and while it may sound a bit like the stuff of a TV doco, giving this your undivided attention in a cinema can’t be urged enough.