“The Eagle Huntress” Overcomes 2,000 Years of Male Tradition
The Eagle Huntress directed by Otto Bell and starring teenager Aisholpan is a new documentary that opened to standing ovations at Sundance this year.
The movie follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl. Aisholpan’s family are nomadic Kazakh herders in the Altai mountains region. They eke out a harsh existence by herding cattle and goats. An crucial part the herders’ lifestyle involves training golden-eagle chicks to help them hunt foxes and other small mammals they use for food and clothing.
Eagle Hunters hunt on horseback with their golden eagle partners. The film follows Aisholpan as she fights to become the first female Eagle Hunter in 2,000 years of male-dominated tradition.
NPR’s Barbara King sat down with Aisholpan and her father Nurgaiv at Sundance, and filed this report.
As a young child, Nurgaiv told me, Aisholpan helped him care for his own eagle; even then he could see that she was doing things “accurately” and with intense interest. A seventh-generation eagle hunter, Nurgaiv soon encouraged his daughter to become his apprentice — a noteworthy act in a culture where such a thing had simply never happened before.
The director, Otto Bell, brought his film to Sundance looking for a distributor. Based on the audience reaction and rave reviews coming out of the festival, a distributor shouldn’t be too hard to find.