|The Eagle Huntress|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Otto Bell|
|Narrated by||Daisy Ridley|
|Music by||Jeff Peters|
|Edited by||Pierre Takal|
|Box office||$3 million|
The Eagle Huntress is a 2016 internationally co-produced Kazakh-language documentary film directed by Otto Bell and narrated by executive producer Daisy Ridley. It follows the story of Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia, as she attempts to become the first female eagle hunter to compete in the eagle festival at Ulgii, Mongolia, established in 1999.
The Eagle Huntress follows the story of Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia, as she attempts to become the first female eagle hunter to compete in the eagle festival at Ulgii, Mongolia, established in 1999. She belongs to a family of nomads that spend their summers in a yurt in the Altai Mountains and their winters in a house in town. The men in her family have been eagle hunters for seven generations, and she wants to follow in their footsteps.
With her father Nurgaiv's help, she learns how to train golden eagles, and then captures and trains her own eaglet. Although she faces some disbelief and opposition within the traditionally male sport, she becomes the first female to enter the competition at the annual Golden Eagle Festival. She ends up winning the competition, and her eaglet breaks a speed record in one of the events.
After the competition, she takes the final step toward becoming an eagle hunter by traveling with her father to the mountains in the winter to hunt foxes, braving snowy conditions and extreme cold. After some initial misses, her eaglet successfully kills its first fox and she returns home.
The film's dialog is in Kazakh; the narration is in English.
The Eagle Huntress premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics for the US and Altitude Film Distribution in the UK. Afterwards, international distribution was handled by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. Following the film's premiere, co-executive producer Daisy Ridley agreed to add narration, comprising approximately five minutes total time in the 87-minute film.
The documentary was a New York Times Critics Pick and an LA Times Critics Pick. Chief Film Critics at the New York Times, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, called the film "a bliss out" and "a movie that expands your sense of what is possible" respectively. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% "Certified Fresh" approval rating based on 89 "fresh" reviews and 7 "rotten" reviews. The "Critics Consensus" states: "Effectively stirring and bolstered by thrilling visuals, The Eagle Huntress uses its heartwarming message to fill up a feature that might have made for an even more powerful short film."Metacritic reports a 72 out of 100 score based on 20 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Some reviewers and researchers felt that the documentary overstated the amount of opposition Aisholpan faced as a female eagle hunter. After historical evidence and facts were published about nomadic steppe women participating in training eagles to hunt from antiquity to the present day, the filmmakers corrected early reports placed in media outlets that Aisholpan was "the only" woman in the world hunting with an eagle. A 2014 article by a consultant on the film, Dennis Keen, suggests that women in Aisholpan's region faced a "knee-jerk reaction based on a traditionalist understanding of society and the sexes," such that their achievements "are dismissed by nearly every prominent falconer in Central Asia" because they represented "a serious disturbance in how things are done." Aisholpan has described the opposition she faced in her own words.
Aisholpan stated her desire to study medicine and become a doctor. The filmmakers made Aisholpan and her family "profit participants" in the documentary and established a fund to help pay for Aisholpan's higher education. They also donated the $3,000 prize money they received from winning Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival to this fund.