Yuri Ancarani’s The Challenge explores the prevalence of falconry in Arab culture in a pensive, near dialogue-free visual piece. In wider terms, The Challenge feels like an insight into Middle Eastern excess through its series of loosely-connected images shot with a profound eye by Ancarani.
This observant, fly on the wall piece opens with a staggering display of a falcon centre where hundreds of the majestic birds fly through a warehouse. The spectacle of this establishes Ancarani’s eye for grandeur and excess, something that continues as The Challenge dips into desert drag racing – where hundreds of gas-guzzling SUVs drive around the stark desert terrain, Arabs in sports cars with pet cheetahs, Qatari biker troupes, and most prevalently the culture and respect for the art of falconry. These extreme activities paralleled with the stark desert setting makes for an intriguing visual combination.
The Challenge intrigues in its exploration of how western technology and pastimes have become engrained in Middle Eastern culture – with an added surrealism due to Arabian excess. The grandeur of one of Ancarani’s subjects with a steely pet cheetah sat on gold embroidered furniture, whilst a friend photographs with his top of the range iPhone – highlighting the change Arabian culture has made within the years.
However, Ancarani saves his most impressive visual piece for the final segment which showcases a prized falcon in action as it hunts for a pigeon. With an aerial camera attached to its back we see the falcon soar through the desert in the hunt for its target. This is a majestic sequence that helps channel why these birds have an almost spiritual reputation in Arabic nations.
Whilst not always truly immersive, there is much to admire about The Challenge but the lack of dialogue and repetition of similarly shot scenes can weaken their impact.