The Eagle Huntress

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The Eagle Huntress
The Eagle Huntress.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byOtto Bell
Produced by
  • Otto Bell
  • Sharon Chang
  • Stacey Reiss
StarringAisholpan Nurgaiv
Narrated byDaisy Ridley
Music byJeff Peters
CinematographySimon Niblett
Edited byPierre Takal
Production
companies
  • Kissaki Films
  • Stacey Reiss Productions
  • Shine Global
Distributed by
Release date
  • 24 January 2016 (2016-01-24) (Sundance)
  • 2 November 2016 (2016-11-02) (United States)
  • 16 December 2016 (2016-12-16) (United Kingdom)
Running time
87 minutes[1]
Country
  • United Kingdom
  • Kazakhstan
  • United States
LanguageKazakh
Box office$4.4 million[2]

The Eagle Huntress is a 2016 internationally co-produced Kazakh-language documentary film directed by Otto Bell and narrated by executive producer Daisy Ridley.[3] It follows the story of Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia, as she attempts to become the first female eagle hunter to compete in the eagle festival at Ulgii, Mongolia, established in 1999.

The film was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature but was ultimately not nominated.[4] It was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary.[5]

Content[edit]

Aisholpan at TIFF in 2016

The Eagle Huntress follows the story of Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia, as she attempts to become the first female eagle hunter to compete in the eagle festival at Ulgii, Mongolia, established in 1999. She belongs to a family of nomads who spend their summers in a yurt in the Altai Mountains and their winters in a house in town. The men in her family have been eagle hunters for seven generations,[6] and she wants to follow in their footsteps.

With her father Nurgaiv's help, she learns how to train golden eagles, and then captures and trains her own eaglet. Although she faces some disbelief and opposition within the traditionally male sport, she becomes the first female to enter the competition at the annual Golden Eagle Festival. She ends up winning the competition, and her eaglet breaks a speed record in one of the events.

After the competition, she takes the final step toward becoming an eagle hunter by traveling with her father to the mountains in the winter to hunt foxes, braving snowy conditions and extreme cold. After some initial misses, her eaglet successfully kills its first fox and she returns home.

The film's dialog is in Kazakh; the narration is in English.

Music[edit]

The film's soundtrack features the original song "Angel by the Wings" by Sia, which was released worldwide on December 2, 2016.[7]

Release[edit]

The Eagle Huntress premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics for the US and Altitude Film Distribution in the UK. Afterwards, international distribution was handled by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. Following the film's premiere, co-executive producer Daisy Ridley agreed to add narration, comprising approximately five minutes' total time in the 87-minute film.[8] Director Otto Bell said of Ridley, "Like so many other theatergoers around the world, I was blown away by Daisy's recent portrayal of an empowered female protagonist [Rey in The Force Awakens]. I'm thrilled she'll be bringing that same energy to supporting a real-world heroine who is also on an epic journey to win victory in a far away land."[9]

Reception[edit]

The documentary was a New York Times Critics Pick[10] and an LA Times Critics Pick.[11] Chief Film Critics at The New York Times, Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, called the film "a bliss out"[12] and "a movie that expands your sense of what is possible",[10] respectively. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 94% approval rating based on 126 reviews with an average rating of 7.41/10. The website's critics consensus states: "Effectively stirring and bolstered by thrilling visuals, The Eagle Huntress uses its heartwarming message to fill up a feature that might have made for an even more powerful short film."[13] Metacritic reports a 72 out of 100 score based on 20 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]

Criticism[edit]

Some reviewers and researchers felt that the documentary overstated the amount of opposition Aisholpan faced as a female eagle hunter and that the early promotion of the film included an ethnocentric and distortive description of the Kazakh eagle hunting culture as being one of "ingrained misogyny"(IMDb description for initial 7 months from film's premiere).[15][16] After historical evidence and facts were published about nomadic steppe women participating in training eagles to hunt from antiquity to the present day,[17] the filmmakers corrected early reports placed in media outlets that Aisholpan was "the only" woman in the world hunting with an eagle.[18][19][20] A 2014 article by a consultant on the film, Dennis Keen, suggests that women in Aisholpan's region faced a "knee-jerk reaction based on a traditionalist understanding of society and the sexes," such that their achievements "are dismissed by nearly every prominent falconer in Central Asia" because they represented "a serious disturbance in how things are done."[21] Aisholpan has described the opposition she faced in her own words.[22][23]

Despite Dennis Keen's above-noted assertion, in a March 8, 2014 article entitled "Он үшінде қондырған қолға қыран" (https://egemen.kz/article/29988-on-ushinde-qondyrghan-qolgha-qyran) by Suleimen Mamet for Egemen Qazaqstan news, eagle huntress, Makpal Abrazakova, said: "Realizing my enthusiasm, my father deliberately took me to the eagle hunters on the slopes of Alatau [Qazaqstan] and introduced me to the eagle hunters. I was blessed by such elders as Tleubek Esimbek, Aben Toktasynov, Seitzhan Kodekov. Seeing commitment and talent in me they bestowed me with an eaglet/baby eagle which they thought/predicted could become a best hunting eagle in the future." And in a March 4, 2014 article entitled "Falconry Tournament Tests Ancient Skills" (https://astanatimes.com/2014/03/falconry-tournament-tests-ancient-skills/) by Asset Kalymov for The Astana Times news, two of the men mentioned in the above-noted article as having blessed Makpal's eagle hunting career were described as: "famous berkutchis Aben Toktasynuly and Seitzhan Kodekov whose efforts in the early 1990s helped revive this Kazakh tradition." Thus, the men Dennis Keen cites as objecting prominent eagle hunters are only a subset of prominent eagle hunters and the very men who blessed Makpal's engagement were elders integrally important to the resurrection of eagle hunting tradition in Kazakhstan during post-Soviet rule!

In addition, although Dennis Keen served as a voluntary film consultant to Otto Bell, he failed to discover the existence of other Kazakh eagle festival participant, Akbota Bagashar, or Gulaida Zhorobekova, an eagle (and other birds of prey) falconer of Kyrgyzstan. Both of whom also preceeded Aisholpan Nurgaiv in terms of female engagement in eagle falconry in Central Asia. In an article dated February 26, 2013 by Nadezhda Plyaskina called "The Basic Instinct" with photo by Roman Egorov. Url: https://time.kz/articles/sport/2013/02/26/osnovnoj-instinkt Akbota Bagashar noted to have competed at the "Sonar-2013" festival, near Nura; a 3 day competition with 40 competitors and involved shirga (lures) and live prey. In that article she said she began going out on hunts with her grandfather as a child and went on her first hunt with her own eagle at age 15. At the 2013 festival in Nura she was awarded a prize by virtue of being the only female competing. Layman researcher, Meghan Fitz-James of Vancouver, B. C., Canada, along with Dinara Assanova of Women of Kazakhstan NGO have been working to deepen the research into female engagement in eagle hunting in Central Asia. Meghan Fitz-James is the first Westerner to bring the existence of Gulaida Zhorobekova to light to English language readers and has a created a post about her on Facebook at this link https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155684529801277&id=668731276. Meghan Fitz-James is currently (2020) working to develop a documentary which she claims will "reveal covered up evidence that bypassed every single veracity fact-checker for 'The Eagle Huntress' "documentary" since day one." (found in comment sections under many of her Instagram photos featuring Makpal Abdrazakova). She notes that her discovery involved deep investigation and took her 2.5 years to discover.

Legacy[edit]

Aisholpan stated her desire to study medicine and become a doctor.[24] The filmmakers made Aisholpan and her family "profit participants" in the documentary and established a fund to help pay for Aisholpan's higher education.[25] They also donated the $3,000 prize money they received from winning Best Documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival to this fund.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Eagle Huntress (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 14 November 2006.
  2. ^ "The Eagle Huntress". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  3. ^ "Mongolia's Teen Eagle Huntress Deserves to Be the Next Elsa". New York Magazine. 4 November 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  4. ^ Cara Buckley (6 December 2016). "Oscar documentary shortlist focuses on politics and race". New York Times.
  5. ^ Diana Lodderhose; Nancy Tartaglione (9 January 2017). "BAFTA nominations: 'La La Land' leads with 11; 'Arrival,' 'Nocturnal Animals' nab 9 each - Full list & notable omissions". Deadline Hollywood.
  6. ^ Barbara J. King (28 January 2016). "Teenage 'Eagle Huntress' Overturns 2,000 Years Of Male Tradition". NPR. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  7. ^ Seth Kelley (5 August 2016). "'The Eagle Huntress' Trailer: Daisy Ridley Narrates the Documentary". Variety. Retrieved 4 November 2016.; Stephanie Eckardt (25 October 2016). "The Incredible Story Behind the Film "The Eagle Huntress"". W Magazine. Retrieved 4 November 2016.; and "'Angel by the Wings' – Single", Apple Itunes, accessed March 8, 2017
  8. ^ Guerrasio, Jason (24 September 2016). "How a movie about eagle hunting nabbed a Star Wars lead actor and a chart-topping singer". Business Insider. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  9. ^ "'Star Wars' Daisy Ridley Becomes 'Eagle Huntress' Executive Producer". Deadline. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  10. ^ a b A. O. Scott (1 November 2016). "Review: In 'The Eagle Huntress,' a girl from Mongolia soars". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "'The Eagle Huntress' and More Critics' Picks". Los Angeles Times. 2 November 2016.
  12. ^ Manohla Dargis (29 January 2016). "Sundance fights tide with films like 'The Birth of a Nation'". New York Times.
  13. ^ "The Eagle Huntress (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  14. ^ "The Eagle Huntress reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  15. ^ Stephen Mulvey (6 February 2017). "Is The Eagle Huntress Really a Documentary?". BBC News.
  16. ^ Paul Byrnes (15 March 2017). "The Eagle Huntress Review: A Problematic Documentary". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  17. ^ Adrienne Mayor (1 May 2016). "The Eagle Huntress: Ancient Traditions and New Generations" (PDF). Stanford University.
  18. ^ William Kremer (14 April 2014). "A 13-year-old eagle huntress in Mongolia". BBC News.
  19. ^ Andrew Lapin (4 August 2016). "Teenage Eagle Hunter is Mongolia's New Movie Star". National Geographic.
  20. ^ Jamie Broadnax (10 October 2016). "Otto Bell: The Eagle Huntress". Black Girl Nerds.
  21. ^ Dennis Keen (19 April 2014). "The internet may love eagle huntresses, but the eagle hunters certainly don't". The Central Asian Falconry Project.
  22. ^ Cara Buckley (2 December 2016). "A Documentary Star is Born: The Girl Who Hunts with Eagles". New York Times.
  23. ^ Rama Tampubolon (1 November 2016). "Interview: Aisholpan Nurgaiv and Director Otto Bell Talk to Me About The Eagle Huntress and Girl Power". Rama's Screen.
  24. ^ Stacey Reiss (8 October 2016). "13-Year-Old Eagle Huntress Gives Great Advice for People Too Scared to Follow Their Dreams". Harper's Bazaar.
  25. ^ Charline Jao (1 February 2017). "Interview: Otto Bell on the Structure of The Eagle Huntress and Telling Aisholpan's Story". The Mary Sue.
  26. ^ Rafer Guzmán (10 October 2016). "The Eagle Huntress Wins Best Documentary at Hamptons Film Fest". Newsday. Long Island, New York.

External links[edit]