Title: The Eagle Huntress
Country: Mongolia, UK, USA
Language: Kazakh, English
Genre: Documentary, Adventure, Sport
Director: Otto Bell
Music: Jeff Peters
Cinematography: Simon Niblett
An BAFTA nominated documentary tells the crowd-pleasing story of a 13-year-old Kazakh girl Aisholpan who contends for becoming an eagle hunter (reckoned as a man’s vocation) through the help of her hunter father Rys Nurgaiv.
Narrated by Daisy Ridley, the film opens with the grandiose landscape of Altai Mountains with a prefatory ceremony of releasing an eagle to its natural habitat after serving a seven-year training stint (a ritual abided by all the eagle hunters in the light of their reverence to the nature and the species), then dwells on the central story in the chronological order, while glancing through Aisholpan’s school life and her family’s nomad traditions. Once Aisholpan expresses her wish to become an eagle huntress herself, to follow the family’s hallowed heredity, it is worth noting that her parents’ wholesome espousal is not because there is no male heir in the household to carry on the torch, she is the eldest child of three (two girls, one boy), so remarkably, it is purely derived from love and support without any hidden agendas, as her mother comments, a girl should have her own right to choose what she wants to do. After a perilous outing near a mountainside cliff to nab her own eaglet. Aisholpan is officially geared up to become a real eagle huntress under Rys’ training and her grandfather’s blessing (although the training process feels a shade under-presented).
Meanwhile, first-time director Otto Bell doesn’t intend to set the bar of obstacles too high, barring for the discontent from some senior male eagle hunters addressing bromides, there is no hindrance in Aisholpan entering the region’s annual Golden Eagle festival as the first female and youngest participant, and without too much pains, she snatches the first place in front of the awe-struck audience and fellow contestants.
When the fanfare settles, the real challenge transpires as Aisholpan and Rys embark on a fox-hunting journey in the wintry terrains of slippery frozen rivers and knee-deep snows, which will ultimately qualify her as a bona-fide eagle huntress, the film aptly brings down its curtain after Aisholpan’s golden eagle conquers its first prey in tandem with Sia’s infectious closing-credits song ANGEL BY THE WINGS.
Undeniably, this smoothly orchestrated tale somewhat runs to betray its staged M.O. of re-enacting Aisholpan’s victorious trajectory than recording these events in real-life synchronicity, but bearing in mind the daunting task to capture he stupendous eagle-swooping momentum, one might find this compromise unavoidable. Be that as it may, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS is a massively appealing ethnic reportage even its leitmotif appears pretty generic, but on the other hand, viewers should be glad the filmmakers haven’t elevated their subject onto the stratosphere of progressive feminism, to accommodating a more westernized taste, which does speak volumes of their integrity to preserve Aisholpan and her family’s unalloyed affinity with the awe-inspiring nature and tradition, to whom, that is what really matters.