The Eagle Huntress
Riding on horseback to the sound of biting wind, the newly hammered horse shoes slip on the white-blue ice. A girl and her father are hunting in winter, searching for foxes and gender equality.
A superb documentary, The Eagle Huntress offers a rare insight into the culture of Kazakh nomads, proud communities who live in the Eurasian steppe. Their dwellings nestle within the peaks of Mongolia; hunter-gatherer groups live here, coexisting in perfect symbiosis with nature.
Though the film’s audience may live many miles apart, separated by custom and language, Aisholpan’s community is dogged by a familiar beast: patriarchy. The real life heroine is 13 and trained in the centuries old art of eagle hunting by her father, who is supportive of her dream to compete in the annual festival in Ölgii. However, her greatest obstacle is the ultra-traditional attitude of the male eagle hunters, for whom gender bias is orthodoxy: woman make tea, they don’t hunt.
Aisholpan’s supremo talent silences the naysayers and the scenes of her succeeding are juxtaposed with their misogynistic prattle and disbelieving faces. The effect is humorous and director Otto Bell should be credited for creating an informative, feel-good documentary that will inspire the whole family.
Expect panoramic vistas of the mountain ranges and majestic eagle footage, which holds its own against the best of Attenborough. This incredible cinematography (credit here to Simon Niblett) is complemented by an even greater landscape, producing an uncanny effect on the viewer through the sheer vastness of nature. Narrating the adventure is Daisy Ridley (Star Wars), and her mellifluous voice mirrors the beauty of the terrain.
The conflicting themes of feminism and patriarchy are exacerbated by some inspired direction. The feeding of her newly caught eaglet with chunks of flesh is juxtaposed with the clumsy painting of Aisholpan and her little sister’s nails. The 13-year-old wears bows and clips in her hair, along with her ornate eagle hunter attire, traditionally a male garb. Aisholpan is unashamedly female. She isn’t trying to be a man, rather, she is showing the young women around her that rules are there to be broken. Especially when they’re as archaic as fixed gender roles. Feminism is taking hold in the mountains of Mongolia.
The Eagle Huntress is released in selected cinemas on 16th December 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Eagle Huntress here: