The Challenge

This short documentary by Italian filmmaker Yuri Ancarani recalls some of Werner Herzog’s nonfiction work (La Soufrière, Lessons of Darkness) in that its subject matter feels almost secondary to its painterly imagery and philosophical mood. Ancarani, observing a group of Qatari sheikhs as they enjoy their pastime of amateur falconry, employs long takes and wide shots that encourage you to bask in the men’s lavish lifestyle. They zoom around the desert in expensive sports cars and private planes, gambling large sums of money and showing off their dangerous pets (not only falcons but also leopards). This milieu might seem exotic in any case, but here it seems like something from a different planet; that Ancarai shows greater sympathy for animals than people only heightens the antihumanist vibe. Francesco Fantini and Lorenzo Senni wrote the wondrous score. In Arabic with subtitles.