By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
In modern day Mongolia, hunting with trained eagles is an ancient tradition that has been passed on through generations of Kazakh men. It has grown into a full-fledged competitive sport where men gather to show their training skills and showmanship with their birds. For the very first time, though, a young 13 year-old Kazakh girl would rock the eagle hunting sport with her impressive skills and poise and would prove herself to a mass of doubting and scoffing men. Otto Bell’s documentary The Eagle Huntress tells this wonderful and inspirational story of feminism and does so with the appropriate grace and beauty for the sport and its subject.
Aisholpan Nugaiv lives with her humble family in Mongolia. She and her siblings attend boarding school five days out of the week. While at school, Aisholpan is not too different from the other girls in her school, though she seems to enjoy activities that boys typically dominate. She also displays a strength and confidence that some girls typically shy away from. On the weekends, Aisholpan and her siblings return home where she trains her pet eagle in preparations for the annual eagle hunting competition, a contest previously dominated by men. Aisholpan and her father train and practice diligently, so that she can prove herself and her capabilities to the elders and other competitors who feel that women have no place in the sport.
Director Otto Bell has made a truly gorgeous and exhilarating documentary that honors and celebrates this fascinating tradition and the challenges and victories of a driven and passionate 13 year-old girl who wants to be the first female eagle hunter. With dazzling cinematography by Simon Niblet, superb editing by Pierre Takal, an exciting and driving score by Jeff Peters, and sublime narration by Daisy Ridley, Bell presents Aisholpan’s story triumphantly. It is a story that is not only compelling, but also is heartwarming and emotional. The MPAA has given the film a G rating and should, therefore, make for an exciting time at the cinema for the whole family.