Aisholpan, 13-year-old daughter of a nomadic Kazakh family, wants to be an eagle huntress. It’s against the traditions of her people for a woman to hunt with the eagles, but she’s determined to compete in the Golden Eagle Festival. She has the unswerving support of her father, who helps her find and train a bird of her own.
The Eagle Huntress is a beautifully-filmed documentary. It’s filled with stunning aerial views of the mountains Aisholpan’s family lives in, and dramatic footage of the eagle’s flight. (I could have watched that all day.) The documentary also gives us an outlook on how the family lives – their day-to-day routine, their home, how foreign yet familiar their lifestyle is. I understood and sympathized with their support for a beloved daughter.
Aisholpan herself is amazing, a strong young woman and a great hero for the girls-can-do-anything message the movie promotes.
Much of the story is devoted to the physical challenges Aisholpan had to face, from climbing down steep cliffs to retrieve her eaglet, to hunting in minus-40-degree temperatures. The film crew had to struggle with the same unforgiving environment. I found this interview with director Otto Bell that describes what they had to go through.
The Eagle Huntress has a simple message — “Girls Can Do Anything” — which seems to be directed at a younger audience. In spite of the tremendous challenges the movie shows us, the storyline lacks complexity, making this a light viewing experience. But it’s still well worth watching for adults, because it feels like a glimpse into another world.
Here’s a link to the movie’s website.