A documentary by Otto Bell. In Kazakh, with English subtitles. Rated G
Star Wars doyen Daisy Ridley caught an early version of this uplifting documentary shot in rarely seen Western Mongolia. She then decided to help get The Eagle Huntress distributed by lending her connections and her narrative voice to it.
Actually, there’s not much narration here, and little is needed in the true, self-propelled tale of a 13-year-old girl named Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who learns the traditionally male skill of hunting with the aid of eagles.
Her dad is the latest in a line of nomads in the spectacular Altai Mountains, where Mongolia meets China, Russia, and Kazakhstan. He spots her talent early, and encourages the round-faced girl to train her own eaglet for hunting and sport. (The ethics of baby-eagle-napping aren’t up for discussion here.)
They both want her to join a national competition, and first-time feature maker Otto Bell interviews a few old-timers who dutifully offer protests regarding a female competitor. “They get too cold” is the best one elder can come up with. But in the event, no one seems particularly bothered by Aisholpan’s actual participation.
We’ll never know what effect the presence of Bell’s camera might have had on that and other apparent “conflicts” in this generally easygoing, always beautifully shot tale. But we’re happy to follow his small crew there, and to the school she attends, and sleeps at during the week, with her equally charming female mates.
One might wish, considering the context, that the filmmaker had caught a little more of Mom’s feelings about her daughter’s barrier-bending skills.
The film is aimed at a younger audience, and its instructions on empowerment are slightly pedantic, as supported by the conventional western score and even a closing song, from Sia, with the refrain “You can do anything.” For sure.
But parents should accordingly check the legality of keeping eagles on their property.