the eagle huntress

Director: Otto Bell

Starring: Aisholpan Nurgaiv, Daisy Ridley & Rys Nurgaiv

Released: 8th May 2017

A feelgood film about Kazakh falconry, you say? Set in the snowy, rock terrain of the Altai mountains? Director Otto Bell’s film is part social documentary, part nature study and part rites of passage drama; combined, all three present a remarkable snapshot of life in a remote region where one plucky 13 year old girl wishes to pursue her unusual dreams.

This is Aisholpan, from a tribe of nomad Kazakh, who wishes to follow in her father’s footsteps. He is an eagle hunter, who has a remarkable relationship with the birds of prey. Captured in infancy, they are trained to aid in hunting, but only for seven years, after which they are released back into the wild. But Aisholpan’s ambitions are frowned upon by the community elders, who believe a girl should follow a more domesticated path. Aisholpan enters the tribe’s annual Golden Eagle competition – the first female to do so and the contest’s youngest ever contestant. What follows is predictable, but no less spellbinding.

Michael Bonner

1 Comment

  • I saw this in the cinema. It’s a brilliant film. The people are brilliant. Aisholpan, but also her parents, her grandad and her younger siblings and school friends.
    Then the filming is amazing. The shots of the landscape are stunning – many done using a drone for the full effects of the incredible mountains which gives a real sense of the surroundings and huge distances involved.
    The scenes of action when Aisholpan is training her eagle, and all the competitors in the eagle hunter contest, are stunning too. Especially when you consider that they had to be shot live, no retakes in real life.
    Just as amazing, in a different way, are the more intimate scenes, especially the conversations between Aisholpan and her family. The courage and love they showed in training and supporting her in her wish to be an eagle hunter is brilliant. But the bravery of allowing a film crew into their home to record so many intimate moments, when they didn’t know how things would turn out, is something I am very grateful for. It shows not only their real courage but also their belief and trust in their daughter, and her confidence in herself and her abilities.
    Contrast this to the approach of the elders and you can see huge social change could be on its way to challenge the traditional patriarchal way society has worked there for a long time. Aisholpan challenges it with her abilities as an eagle hunter, and the challenge is all the stronger for coming from a 12 year old girl.
    The film is an amazing snapshot of a moment of change in a remote society with strong traditions – many of them more useful than the attitude that only men can be eagle hunters, I’m sure. What shines through the film is the humanity of all the people who appear. I highly recommend this.

    Posted By Naomi

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