Almost entirely without verbal exposition, Yuri Ancarani’s hypnotic, purely observational The Challenge spends 70 minutes hovering around a falconer’s auction/competition in Qatar. Offering the barest of narratives, the documentary is primarily shot after gorgeous shot of the birds, their masters, the sport itself, and its attendant rituals, set against miles and miles of the otherwise empty, golden Sahara. Some of it might seem a bit cheeky or even a bit on-the-nose incredulous, like scenes of a bunch of falcons cruising in a private jet or a guy taking his pet cougar for a ride in a Lamborghini, but there’s a quiet investigation of community and tradition here, and the ways in which they bump up against modernity. Auctions are conducted via close-circuit TV and phone, but communal meals are still prioritized. Then there’s just the awesome sight of a bunch of millionaires tear-assing around sand dunes and ripping donuts in the desert with their tricked-out luxury SUVs.
Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2017 | Dispatch 1.