Director Otto Bell’s documentary The Eagle Huntress actually plays out like a cool, dramatic adventure film as a young girl aims to be the first eagle hunter in her family.
Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Mongolian girl living with her tribe, has always been fascinated by eagles, and wants to become a champion eagle hunter like her father and grandfather. (They hunt using eagles to catch game, rather than actually hunting eagles.) The film follows her through her initial training, including the capturing of her own baby eagle on a treacherous cliff side. (This kid isn’t messing around; she really wants this.) It’s fascinating watching the eagle acclimate to its new home; you feel a little sorry for it, but its captors feed it well, and it certainly bonds with Aisholpan. It’s an amazing animal, and there’s a lot of joy in simply seeing food going into its mouth. It’s also amazing to see its particular brand of voracious eating going on just inches from the young girl’s face. This kid has a lot of faith in the goodwill of her big bird.
Yes, that’s Rey herself, Daisy Ridley, chiming in with the occasional narration. (Her voice was made for this sort of thing.) Parts of the doc feel a little staged, but its overwhelming charm cancels out the phony moments.
Aisholpan and her big bird do eventually make it to the eagle festival, where she is the only female participant. It ends with the girl and her eagle going on a winter hunt—and some pretty amazing battles with foxes.
I didn’t even know eagle hunting was a thing until I saw this. This is an entertaining nature documentary, and Aisholpan will put a smile on your face.
The Eagle Huntress is now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565) and the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).