$12 General Admission
In The Challenge, the seemingly archaic sport of falconry, and perhaps more conspicuously its desert culture of devotees in the UAE, is treated to an abstract ethnography by Yuri Ancarani. The Italian director, known for his documentation, treats the subject in typically broad strokes of ritualized gesture and choreographic labour (San Siro explored the industrial anatomy of Milan’s sporting temple; Il Capo witnessed a marble quarry under excavation in the Apuan Alps). Grounded in observational realism, yet almost surreal in its maximized minimalism, the nominal tale of a Sheikh falconer travelling to Qatar for a weekend tournament becomes a hypnotic study in contrasts: the wild and the tame, the gilded and the barren, ennui and excitement, technology and nature. The film would seem exotic were it not for its uncanny parallels to America’s weekend culture of spectator sporting events and arena rock pageantry – imagine biker gangs astride golden choppers who heed the call to prayer.