PLOT- Otto Bell's documentary, The Eagle Huntress, follows thirteen year old Aisholpan, as she attempts to become the first female eagle huntress in her community, located in rural Mongolia. The documentary is narrated by Daisy Ridley.
LIKE- I'm writing this review just minutes after returning home from the theater, flooded with awe and good vibes from this wonderful documentary. There is so much to love about The Eagle Huntress.
Aisholpan is a strong-willed girl with big dreams. However, The Eagle Huntress isn't only about Aishoplan. The film focuses equally on her father, Rhys, who fully supports his daughter's dreams, and takes on the task of training her. Although Aishoplan comes from twelve generations of champion eagle hunters, as a female, there are many in the community who do not think it's an activity fit for women. Rhys realizes that Aishoplan has a gift, yet she will have to work extra hard to prove herself to the doubters. Rhys is an amazing father. He patiently teaches Aishoplan the art of eagle hunting and never holds her back, even when the situations are difficult and dangerous. He is constantly telling her that she is brave, smart, and beautiful. Although Aishoplan's mother is seen less in the documentary, she is also extremely proud of her daughter and supportive. Aishoplan's loving family is definitely one to envy, they are amazing.
Aisholpan has an incredibly strong sense of self confidence, and seems almost unaware that people are waiting for her to fail. She's determined and unfazed. Throughout the film, she shines with the most beautiful smile, just seeming like she knows that everything will work out. This isn't to say that she doesn't work hard, in fact, I think her confidence comes from the effort that she puts forth. Aisholpan's attitude, work ethic, and fighting spirit make her a great role-model.
Beyond having an incredible protagonist and her family to root for, the documentary is fascinating in regard with both the specifics of eagle hunting, and the daily life of Aishoplan's family. I had not previously heard of eagle hunting, which is a highly skilled art in which eagles and humans work together to hunt small prey, like foxes. Eagle hunting is only practiced in a few places in the world, and the hunters must capture baby eagles (eaglets), during a short period of time when the babies are old enough to be away from their mothers, but too young to fly. The eagles are trained and kept for seven years, when traditionally their service ends, and they are released back into the wild. Being an eagle hunter is physically demanding, with long days spent in remote areas in treacherous weather.
Aisholpan's family is nomadic. During warm weather, they live in temporary shelters made from animal skins and wood, tending to herd animals which live in close proximity. To protect themselves in the winter, they move into a house, which looks crude by Western standards, but that clearly offers stronger protection from the cold. Since their community is far from the nearest school, Aisholpan and her younger siblings, board at the school during weekdays. It's very different from American culture, yet the themes of family and wanting the best for your child, will resonate across cultural barriers.
DISLIKE- Nothing. The Eagle Huntress is a joyful, uplifting story. The entire theatre broke out into applause during the credits.
RECOMMEND- Enthusiastically. If you're able, try to see The Eagle Huntress on the big screen. The landscape is gorgeous and personally, I think it's great to show support for documentaries and small budget films, when they are running in the cinema. As a feel-good bit of info, I just read that a fund has been set aside for Aisholpan's education. She has dreams of becoming a doctor, and if there ever was someone who could achieve their dreams, it's this kid. Her smile and spirit are infectious.