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When we were children, most of us were told not to play with matches. However, as one beautiful film points out, there are actually places in the world where children aren’t only encouraged to play with matches, but are encouraged to see what happens when they drop that match into gunpowder.

BRIMSTONE & GLORY comes from the same creative team as BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. This time, they take their cameras to Tultepec, Mexico. Their curiosity surrounds the annual National Pyrothenic Festival that takes place there every spring. After learning about the methodology and mad science that goes into the creation of a great firecracker, our attention is turned to the “castillos” – wooden structures the size of an electrical tower that are rigged with fireworks and set ablaze. After that, the town is consumed with the “pamplonada”. For this event, people around town create large wooden bulls stuffed with fireworks that are paraded through the crowded city streets, before also being set ablaze.

BRIMSTONE & GLORY is a film about two things; those consumed with lighting a flame, and those who want to hold their hand over that flame for as long as they can. For those creating, there is no such thing as too great a length. They will climb great heights without a net; they will walk through showers of sparks to light the next fuse, and they will fight against the power of a thunderstorm to save their hard work.

As for those that wish to hold their hand over the flame, what’s better than a little pain to make you appreciate the pleasure of being alive?

There is something truly poetic about putting so much time, energy, and artistry into something…only to then light it on fire. For most of us, the desire is to leave our mark on this planet – to make something that will outlive us in presence or in spirit. We want to be able to point to something and say “I was here”. And yet, for this community, all of that energy and enthusiasm the rest of us put into legacy, they put into immediacy. It’s as if they want to prepare the most delectable meal that will leave absolutely no leftovers; but rather than full tummies, they want lights in the sky and ashes on the ground.

This community is less concerned with saying “We were here” than they wish to say “We are here”. Such a bold declaration is hard not to get emotionally swept up into, so viewers of this film can be excused if they feel a fire in their hearts, or tears in their eyes.

BRIMSTONE & GLORY gives the audience just the slightest inkling of what it must be like to be on the streets of Tultepec every spring. We in the audience can only watch from the safety of our seats, marvel, and wonder to ourselves. We can barely grasp what standing in the presence of the fireworks must truly be like. If we were to hazard a guess, those that are daring enough feel a rush of excitement, fear, joy, nerves, and probably a few scars to mark the occasion.

An awful lot like life, I suppose.