This spellbinding documentary follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl who is fighting to become the first female eagle hunter in twelve generations of her Kazakh family. Through breathtaking aerial cinematography and intimate verite footage, the film captures her personal journey while also addressing universal themes like female empowerment, the natural world, coming of age and the onset of modernity.
"It's not a choice, it's a calling that has to be in your blood." Aisholpan's father, Nurgaiv.
Rarely does a documentary tell it like it is; manipulative docs sometimes embellish with contrived conflicts or outrageously obvious re-creations. The Eagle Huntress needs no phony clashes or extensive re-enactments, for its hero is 13 year old Aisholpan, from Asia's Altai Mountains, the first female Kazakh in twelve generations to be a bona fide eagle huntress.
The Eagle Huntress is so beautifully shot you'd almost book passage to visit this isolated world in Mongolia by the China border. Director Otto Bell said, "It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there." The air and sky are clear like we in the city have never seen, and the nomadic tribe that gives us Aisolpan is so loving and innocent as to make us wonder what our modern technology has taken from us.
I guess I am most impressed that the modern notion of female empowerment is played without histrionics among elders who question her fitness as a woman to compete in the annual Golden Eagle Festival. Aisholpan is the perfect model for early teen film goers: fresh faced, wide smiled, and ready for challenges. Director Otto Bell lets the male power gently give in to the age of feminism without acting like stupid old guys.
The Eagle Huntress works not just as a tract supporting the new woman but also as a treatise on simple, authentic life style where what one does trumps what one says. By the way, she's a perfect role model because she lacks the self-absorbed qualities of today's female heroes.
It's beautiful and uplifting in the most honest way a doc can be.
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