Do Not Pass Up Supporting ‘Passfire’: A Kickstarter Tale


12679_481881598501208_1776306612_nPlease join the Clyde Fitch Report in supporting the Kickstarter campaign for a new documentary film by Jesse Veverka and Jeremy Veverka. Why? Keep reading.

In mid-2012, CFR founder Leonard Jacobs was doing genealogical research. He was 12 when he began the hobby — a way, perhaps, for him to reconcile the loss of his grandfather. For four, five years he pursued it, but this was long before the Interwebs allowed researchers to click-click-click their way to ancestral discovery. So he’d dropped the genealogy before college, figuring that one day research wouldn’t necessarily entail endless hours of slogging through unindexed microfiche in pursuit of a scrap of information.

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In that year he began to research — 1980 — he wrote many letters to distant relatives, soliciting dates, stories and information. One letter went to the youngest living sister of his late grandfather’s father, then almost 80. She replied with generous lineal lore. In one letter, she wrote of her own legacy, including a granddaughter and, lovingly, two great-grandsons. Cut to 25 years later when, on that day in 2012, Jacobs gave a shot and later unearthed those dusty letters, rereading mentions of the granddaughter and great-grandsons. A few Facebook clicks and there they were: the aforementioned Veverka brothers. Yet it wasn’t because they’re Jacobs’ distant cousins — third, to be precise — that they were invited to become CFR contributors. It’s because they’re deeply thoughtful, sensitive and progressive filmmakers — politically aware, culturally attuned, individualistic humanitarian-documentarians abundant in intelligence, insight, fun and spirit. Their work to date — China: Rebirth of an Empire; Malana: Globalization of a Himalayan Village; Bus to Somewhere — is what the CFR means by “a nexus of arts and politics.”

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Their latest documentary — which we are asking you to support with a Kickstarter pledge — is called Passfire. No doubt you’ve seen the CFR ads for it or read about it in one of their recent Veverka Bros. columns. The film explores “the world’s most amazing fireworks, the passionate people who make them and the cultures behind them” and they’ve already spent more than six months planning for the film to have a true worldwide overview. With footage from Japan and China in the proverbial can, they will soon add scenes from the UK, the Netherlands, Malta, Spain, Italy, Greece, Mexico, Brazil, India, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, and the US to their list. In one scene, jumbo-sized Thai girandolas helicoptor into the sky. In another scene, celebrations erupt at a Mexico fireworks festival honoring San Juan de Dios, the patron saint of pyrotechnics. In another, Catholic parishes in Malta compete with one another for the best fireworks shows. And on and on: the fireworks world as it works fire around the world.

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The Veverkas are recording everything from the biggest blasts to the most traditional manufacturing methods. Their latest footage — on the legendary 36-inch san-jaku shell in Japan, which takes six months to craft, weighs about 400 pounds and costs almost as much as a new car — can be seen in their latest Kickstarter video. Also in Japan, Passfire finds a master shellmaker assembling 12-inch ichi-shaku. These are stars (round balls) sandwiched between layers of bursting charge, creating a beautiful burst-within-a-burst effect that is nearly symmetrical.

How, if at all, does the Veverkas’ distant lineage to Jacobs relate to the CFR’s support of Passfire? Well, it doesn’t in a formal academic sense. But in a spiritual sense, it makes sense, for whether it’s links to a bloodline or links to a culture, we are defined more strongly and more enduringly by what binds us than what differentiates us. And if the ineffable drive to uncover our past is all about the need to touch the face of history, then surely we may look to our past for pathways to our future as well.

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Pledge $50 or $75 to Passfire today and you will receive some special CFR- and Passfire-branded swag for the film. If you do, you’ll join the more than 275 backers who have pledged nearly $25,000 toward the $38,000 goal — very modest funding for a film.

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We think some copy from the Veverkas latest press release will make you think about a pledge:

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“Ever since I was a boy, I would always look forward to fireworks shows on the 4th of July — a fascination I still haven’t outgrown,” said director of photography Jeremy Veverka, 31. “I realized that there are many other adults who haven’t outgrown it either. People have based their entire livelihoods on fireworks, not for the money but for the love of making things go boom.”

The brothers were inspired to pursue a long-term film project on the topic after Jesse, 34, wrote an article for CNN Travel entitled “Liuyang: Where the World’s Fireworks Are Born.” His profile of Liuyang, China — the world’s de facto capital of fireworks — sparked interest from Harry Gilliam, president of Skylighter Fireworks, who signed on as an executive producer for Passfire.

“Fireworks have a powerful, almost magical attraction to people,” Gilliam said. “I’m tickled pink that such an accomplished, professional film company is producing a documentary on how and why fireworks affect people so universally. I have been particularly impressed with the Veverka Brothers’ insights and enthusiasm for the link between fireworks and different cultures all over the world, and I am honored to be able to help bring this production into being.”

“There’ve been some interesting stories about the way fireworks are made, their history, or how shows are put together, but there has never been a film of this scale that looks at the way people show their love for fireworks around the globe,” says director Jesse Veverka, adding that many of the scenes offer glimpses of fireworks that have never been seen by the broader public before.

So join us. Support Passfire. Help the Veverkas make the culture of fireworks explode on the worldwide screen.