Sunday, April 16, 4:00 PM
The Challenge
(Dir. Yuri Ancarani, 2016, Italy/France, 70 min)

A fascinating documentary dealing with technology and tradition set against a falconry tournament in Qatar.  Official selection of the 2017 SXSW Film Festival.

Falconry has a history that stretches back over 40 centuries.  In the West it was a prevailing passion of the medieval aristocracy, but its prestige continues undiminished in contemporary Arab culture.  Three years of observing this form of hunting in the field have made it possible to capture the spirit of a tradition that allows its modern practitioners to maintain a close rapport with the desert, despite their predominantly urban lifestyle.  Our guide to how they cross that threshold is a falconer taking his birds to compete in a tournament in Qatar.  In the glaring light of an empty landscape, following flight lines and lures, the film recounts a strange kind of “desert weekend”, in which technological and anthropological microcosms hang in the air, like the falcon, drifting on the irreversible currents of images.

The Challenge explores all of the idiosyncratic aspects of Arabian falconry, from the auctioning of birds through their training and taming though this medieval sport pales in comparison to the imagery captured by filmmaker Yuri Ancarani.  A cheetah rides shotgun in a Lamborghini, children play generator-fueled XBoxes in the middle of the desert, SUVs flip, collide, and explode as they traverse the landscape.  A remarkable, beautifully photographed achievement.