It’s an overplayed trope, but here it is: Yuri Ancarani’s feature documentary debut has everything. Wealthy Qatari sheikhs, secret falconry competitions, souped-up Ferraris, cheetahs driving in those same Ferarris, private jets, sand dunes, and more money than you can believe exists in one place at one time.
Ancarani’s ambitious “The Challenge” follows a group of rich sheikhs who share a passion for the finer things in life: not just money, or cars, or big cats, but also amateur falconry. The film debuted at last year’s Locarno Film Festival, and went on to play a number of festival around the world, including Torino, Dubai, SXSW, Sarasota, and Edinburgh.
Per its official synopsis: “Italian visual artist Yuri Ancarani’s exquisite documentary enters the surreal world of wealthy Qatari sheikhs with a passion for amateur falconry. The opulence of this Middle Eastern gas state is on full display as the men race SUVs up and down sand dunes, fly their prized falcons around on private jets, and take their pet cheetahs out for desert spins in their souped-up Ferraris. The result is a film jaw-dropping not only for its displays of wealth, but for the pure cinematic beauty that won Ancarani the Filmmaker of the Present award at the 2016 Locarno Film Festival.”
“The Challenge” also recently screened at New York City’s own Rooftop Films series, and when IndieWire spoke with program director Dan Nuxoll earlier this year, he only had wild things to say about it.
Nuxoll shared, “He somehow managed to convince secretive Qatari sheikhs to let him film their bizarre and decadent lives as they prepare for the massive falconry competitions they hold deep in the desert. The footage he captured is arresting, hilarious and profound. There is barely a word spoken in the entire film but you will never want to look away. I have never seen anything like it.”
Check out our exclusive trailer for “The Challenge” below.
Yuri Ancarani’s “The Challenge” opens September 8 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York before expanding to select cities. You can find out more information about the film at its official site.