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The Eagle Huntress: A tale of tenacity and talent – if you believe it

The Eagle Huntress tells the story of Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a natural encouraged by her open-minded father to become the first woman to eagle-hunt

Asher Svidensky/Sony Pictures Classics

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
The Eagle Huntress
Written by
Otto Bell
Directed by
Otto Bell
Starring
Daisy Ridley (narrator), Aisholpan Nurgaiv
Genre
Documentary
Classification
G
Country
UK/Mongolia/USA
Language
Kazakh/English
Year
2016

For generations, Mongolia's eagle hunters have trapped birds of prey as fledglings and carefully trained them to swoop down on foxes and rabbits. Part hunt, part art, part folklore, it's an arcane pursuit handed down from father to son, so what happens when a 13-year-old girl wants to try? The Eagle Huntress tells the story of Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a natural encouraged by her open-minded father to become the first woman to eagle-hunt, rebutting a skeptical patriarchy with her stellar performance at an annual festival. This carefully massaged doc, with its spectacular aerial views of the landscape and the hunt, is a heartwarming story about perseverance and talent – if you believe it. The festival is a camera-friendly event but  the filmmakers have also said they did not stage scenes in more isolated settings in which Aisholpan traps a fledging or goes on her first winter hunt, accompanying her with a skeleton crew. Still, this is one of those perversely perfect adventure films in which the impressive proximity of potentially dangerous wildlife begins to remind one that the documentary-makers are somewhere nearby.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this review included inaccurate information about how The Eagle Huntress was filmed. This version has been corrected.

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