First Hit: Wonderful uplifting film about a young 13-year-old girl breaking the Mongolian sexist barrier of becoming an eagle hunter.
Not only is the young girl Aisholpan the star of this film so is her father Nurgaiv. His determination to support his daughter breaking the lifelong tradition that only men can become eagle hunters is amazingly beautiful.
This film documents this type of hunting by honing in on this family of nomadic people who live in Yurts in the Spring, Summer and Fall and live in a building during the Winter. For 12 generations, this family has developed top-notch eagle hunters. Aisholpan’s father and grandfather have won the top prize at the annual Eagle Hunting festival. To become an eagle hunter, the prospect must first find eaglets that are old enough to be taken out of their nests but cannot yet fly. Then comes the training which includes teaching the eagle to be carried on the hunter’s arm while walking and riding a horse, chase and pounce on animal skins being pulled on a string, and how to fly back onto the hunter’s arm while on a horse. The final barrier is to actually hunt and kill an animal with your eagle.
The film documents, Aisholpan’s lifelong desire to be a huntress, her dutiful practice and the difficult training regimen. When her father thinks she’s ready, they search out, find and capture an eaglet of her own. She trains the eagle and enters the contest.
All through this, there are interviews with elders who scoff that a woman, let alone a girl, has the strength and ability to become an eagle hunter. Her final test, will be to go into the frozen mountains, find and have her eagle capture and kill a fox.
The expansiveness of the land is well displayed here. The shots of this beautiful, stark, desolate and arid country touched me deeply. The shots of the eagles performing their training and captures was fantastic.
Aisholpan was amazing. Her beautiful smile, steely eyes and determination are perfectly documented. Her father Nurgaiv deserves kudos for defying tradition and old sexist ways by supporting his daughter's desire. Otto Bell did an amazing job of presenting us this amazing way of life and Aisholpan’s challenge.
Overall: This was a joyful and uplifting film and made me want to go to the annual eagle festival.