Friday, September 23, 2016

The Eagle Huntress

Last week I got to see a preview screening of The Eagle Huntress, a beautifully photographed documentary set in Mongolia which will play at the up-coming Mill Valley Festival. The film introduces us to Aisholpan, a joyful 13-year old Kazakh girl who is learning to hunt with eagles, a traditional tribal skill customarily practiced only by men.

In the film's 3 parts, we see her training her eagle, competing as the only female in the region's annual Golden Eagle Festival, & finally testing her ability out in the wild, fox hunting in a tough winter landscape. Aisholpan is wonderfully confident, & the relationship between her & her father tremendously trusting. In a sequence that will frighten any parent, she rappels down a cliff to an eagle's nest & steals the eaglet she will train for the competition.

The imagery is gorgeous, with soaring crane shots & spectacular aerial views shot with a drone. No doubt the stark beauty of the mountains & snowy landscapes belies the difficulty of filming, as well as the arduousness of actually living there. The inhabitants' clothing & homes are depicted in sumptuous detail. I enjoyed seeing glimpses of Aisholpan at school, where the atmosphere seems surprisingly cozy.

The storytelling is basic. I liked the film's prologue, which shows the father freeing an eagle after its 7-year service. A recurring montage of skeptical tribal elders provides a touch of humor. The filmmaker does not get too personal with his subjects, & I did not feel that anything was at stake, but I was grateful to see a family film not in the Pixar/Disney mode. The movie is in Kazakh, apart from the minimal narration delivered by Daisy Ridley.

§ The Eagle Huntress (2016)
Otto Bell, dir. UK, Mongolia, USA. 87 mins. 

§ Mill Valley Film Festival 39
Sun, Oct 9 11:15 AM, Sequoia 1 
Mon, Oct 10 12:45 PM, Rafael 1

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