|THE CHALLENGE (director: Yuri Ancarani; cinematographers: Ancarani, Luca Nervegna, Jonathan Ricquebourg; editor: Ancarani; music: Lorenzo Senni, Francesco Fantini; cast: Khaled Al-Kaja, Nasser Al-Kaabi, Soul Riders Qatar, Khaled Al-Hammadi; running time: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Christophe Gougeon, Fabrizio Polpettini, Pierre Malachin, Tommaso Bertani; Kino Lorber release; 2016-France/Italy-in Arabic with English subtitles)|
|"It's best if viewed on
the big screen, where it dazzles."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Italian visual artist/filmmaker Yuri Ancarani ("The Chief") is noted for his short documentaries, makes his auspicious debut in this intriguing but limited feature. It abstractly and with minimal dialogue tells a sporting story about the centuries-old practice of falconry, as experienced in Qatar by the wealthy young sheikhs for a weekend of fun in the desert. The falcons used by the sheikhs in these exercises sell for up to $24,000 riyals.
Stylishly filmed as an abstraction of the ancient rituals that mixes the natural beauty of the dunes with the Lamborghinis, SUVs and gold-plated motorcycles of some of the players riding in the desert for the event.
The men only players are filled with a glee and an eye out to observe prayer time, while playing in a fantasy world where men can be boys again and freely share their experiences and never mind how homoerotic it looks. Ancarani tells the story without ever explaining the rules of the game or its traditional challenges, but shows only how these men like to meet and vent among their peers in their luxury lifestyle.
Even if it's worth seeing only for its stunning visuals and its observations of falconry in Qatar (not well known in the West), and to see a cheetah sitting in the passenger's seat of a Lamborghini as if a household pet, we must say it offers no deep insights about the country and seems more like an advertisement for what a good life style is for the wealthy sportsmen of Qatar than anything else.
It's best if viewed on the big screen, where it dazzles.
REVIEWED ON 6/13/2018 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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