THE CHALLENGE

★★

AN EPIC STRUGGLE AGAINST DROWSINESS

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
22nd September 2017

A man sits in his Lamborghini with a leopard on a leash in the passenger seat. A group of falconers sit in a tent in the middle of the desert, eating from a huge vat of rice and lamb with their hands. Multiple white SUVs race through the sand dunes.

Using striking images but no narration and little dialogue, Italian artist and filmmaker Yuri Ancarani’s first feature-length documentary ‘The Challenge’ doesn’t have any real contextualisation until about 15 minutes into its 70-minute running time.

Set in modern-day Qatar, the film documents the tradition of falconry on the Arabian Peninsula, where falcons can sell for up to $24k each to ultra-rich sheikhs for whom money is basically no object.

'THE CHALLENGE' TRAILER

With artfully composed, opulent visions of the Middle East (shot by Ancarani, Jonathan Ricquebourg, and Luca Nervegna) and a majestic, orchestral soundtrack by Lorenzo Senni and Francesco Fantini, the film unwinds slowly, with beautiful scenes of the desert and interesting peeks into the high-class, blinged-out culture of the Arabian falconers.

This documentary is all about juxtaposition: man and beast, technology and nature, wealth and simplicity. When the climactic falconry contest finally takes place, for example, we watch the competition through a giant TV screen set up in the middle of Qatar’s shifting sands, as the white-robed, all-male spectators sit on elaborate Persian carpets inside their tents playing incessantly with their mobile phones, intercut with footage taken from a camera placed on the bird itself.

Most scenes are long and dreamy, but they also tend to be repetitive and draaaag.

Unfortunately, as amazing as everything looks and sounds, ‘The Challenge’ is quite boring. Most scenes are long and dreamy, obviously paying tribute to the artistry of the film's subject, but they also tend to be repetitive and draaaag. There are no insights or commentary to be found: Ancarani never explains the official rules and protocols involved in falconry, nor do we ever see the servants who presumably prepared the event. A complete exercise in stylistic abstraction, the documentary often feels like a glossy, expensive promo video for, say, Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2018 collection.

With a great score and plenty of beautiful visuals to gawp at, ‘The Challenge’ may hold a hypnotic appeal for anyone keen to park up a pre-roll, bake a batch of edibles or bust out the vape pen. However, I suspect anyone watching this sober will be squirming in their seats before the titular event ever kicks off.

Looking for more Melbourne International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
RELATEDTHE BELKO EXPERIMENTOutcome: dull and forgettable
RELATEDTHE VOIDFilled with gory, stylish horror
RELATEDMAUDIEA gentle and loving portrait of a inspiring artist
RELATEDGOD'S OWN COUNTRYA miraculous and deeply beautiful film
RELATEDJUNGLEA true story told poorly
RELATEDCALL ME BY YOUR NAMEBeautiful beyond description
RELATEDGOOD TIMEA scuzzy and propulsive odyssey
RELATEDREVOLUTION OF SOUND. TANGERINE DREAMA salute to the 80s synth maestros
RELATEDA QUIET DREAMA quirky, beautiful urban comedy
RELATEDA LIFE IN WAVESAn essential look at an electronic music innovator
RELATEDJUPITER'S MOONDefies gravity
RELATEDTHE BUTTERFLY TREEA gorgeous slice of Aussie cinema
RELATEDTHE SQUAREA dazzling piece of cinematic invention
RELATEDTHE KILLING OF A SACRED DEERRevenge most bizarre
RELATEDFACES PLACESThe empathy engine
RELATEDVOYAGE OF TIME: THE IMAX EXPERIENCEMalick's vision of life itself
RELATEDHAPPY ENDMichael Haneke's puzzling social allegory
RELATEDHELLO, GOODBYEEmotional, watchable
RELATEDTOKYO IDOLSJ-pop obsessions and fandom
RELATEDIN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLDA heartbreaking and beautiful animated film
RELATEDTHE ORNITHOLOGISTLet madness take flight
TRENDINGWIN ASTERIX: THE SECRET OF THE MAGIC POTIONAn almighty family animation adventure
TRENDINGWIN TRIPLE THREATThe world's biggest action stars combined
TRENDINGWIN RED JOANJudy Dench's spy drama
TRENDINGWIN WHAT MEN WANTThe power of the mind
TRENDINGWIN MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDINGFall in love with this feed-good romantic comedy
TRENDINGALADDINA whole new world of suffering
© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us