Seeking out the

5000 greatest films

in a century of cinema

The Eagle Huntress

Directed by Otto Bell
Produced by Otto Bell, Sharon Chang, and Stacey Reiss
With: Aisholpan Nurgaiv, and the voice of Daisy Ridley
Cinematography: Simon Niblett
Editing: Pierre Takal
Music: Jeff Peters
Runtime: 87 min
Release Date: 16 December 2016
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color: Color

The Eagle Huntress is a British-Mongolian-American documentary directed by Otto Bell. It tells the true story of a 13-year-old Kazakh Mongolian girl named Aisholpan who wants to be the first female eagle hunter in her country. Wholeheartedly supported by her father Nurgaiv, a master hunter from a long line of men who catch young birds and train them to hunt other animals for meat and fur, Aisholpan learns quickly and soon enters the annual eagle festival as the youngest and only female contestant.  Bell makes his Kazakh-language speaking protagonists extremely easy to relate to and puts some amazing visuals on screen. But the movie contains so little conflict it’s difficult to assess the magnitude of Aisholpan’s accomplishments. She seems to face so little resistance, either from the natural elements or the traditionally-minded elders of her culture, that we can’t tell if she’s an exceptional individual or if she’s simply the first girl to buck a century’s old tradition. Either way, the positive message of the movie hits home. But a documentary feature should be able to contextualize the significance of its subject matter better than Bell does here. The Eagle Huntress ends up as one of those moving but frustrating documentaries that probably would have made an amazing short but come off wanting as a feature.