Title – The Eagle Huntress (2016)
Director – Otto Bell (feature debut)
Cast – (Voice of) Daisy Ridley, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, Rys Nurgaiv
Plot – A documentary following the exploits of 13 year old Kazakh girl Aisholpan who wants nothing more than to follow in her families footsteps and become an eagle hunter, despite the fact it’s usually a male only world.
“Seeing her bird land beautifully on her arm, I realized that she is ready”
Review by Eddie on 23/10/2017
A feel good tribute to girl power, following your dreams and most importantly a bond between child and parent, The Eagle Huntress is not only one of the most stunning looking documentaries in some time but a likeable and easy to digest tale of sticking it to the man and doing what you love no matter the nay-sayers.
Narrated by female heroine herself Daisy Ridley (who also produces this film alongside Super-Size Me filmmaker Morgan Spurlock), debut documentary filmmaker Otto Bell takes us to the harsh, unrelenting, yet utterly captivating landscape of Mongolia as we’re introduced to 13 year old school girl Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who along with her nomad family lives away from the hustle and bustle of modern day society.
This nomad lifestyle Aisholpan lives just so happens to include the native tradition of eagle hunting that Aisholpan’s father Rys is adept at and Aisholpan’s love for this also means that she wants to be the countries first official eagle huntress in a society that views females as the servant of the wiser and tougher males.
Bell capture’s the bond between Aisholpan and Rys that means he is supportive of his driven daughter no matter what others say and Bell also captures the incredible working relationship that develops between bird and human as Aisholpan raises her recently caught eaglet to become a keen follower of her voice and instruction, so that both human and feathered beast can compete in not only the countries esteemed eagle competition, but the dangerous hunt they must eventually partake in should they wish to truly be considered bonafide eagle hunters.
This heart-warming story allows for some breathtaking scenery and photography to take place. Mongolia offering up an almost otherworldly spectacle and the fierce prowess of the eagles themselves are a sight to behold while Aisholpan is an almost Disney like hero that just so happens to be a teenager and her drive to succeed is wholeheartedly commendable.
It’s a shame then that Bell’s film for some reason or another feels a little slight, some things feel unexplored in full while you can’t escape the feeling that some scenes in the film are a little stage for dramatic effect. This could be in some stilted conversations that feel pre-rehearsed or so-called spare of the moment hunts/action scenes feeling a little to smooth for a fully-fledged documentary feel, bringing home the sentiment that The Eagle Huntress has been Hollywoodized a little bit to make it more digestible to a larger audience.
Final Say –
A frequently fascinating and visually brilliant documentary, The Eagle Huntress is a film all ages can partake in and enjoy and the real life centrepiece of the tale Aisholpan is one of recent memories most likeable and memorable heroes, made all the better thanks to the fact she is real, relatable and brave as they come.
3 ½ unlucky foxes out of 5