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The Eagle Huntress is an Oscar contender film about western Mongolia

Posted by Selena Travel / 04 20, 2024

 A photo of a rosy-cheeked, Mongolian girl, perched on a mountain ridge, she was smiling with delight at a ferocious golden eagle flapping on her arm. This is what inspired film director Otto Bell to travel to Mongolia and make a film about Kazakh Eagle huntress and beauty of the country. The shots were taken in the Altai Mountains which, Bell points out, “are the most remote part of the least-populated country in the world”.

The main characters of the film are Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl who is trained to become an eagle huntress and her father Nurgaiv who is a master eagle hunter and he believes that a girl can do anything a boy can as long as she is determined.   

The result is a joyful, majestic film – a documentary (narrated by Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley) that feels like a fairytale as it follows 13-year-old Aisholpan’s quest to become a record-breaking eagle hunter. Amongst her nomadic Kazakh community, the tradition of capturing and training young golden eagles to hunt foxes and rabbits is passed down from father to son. And to achieve her dreams, Aisholpan must overcome the scathing elders, who insist that a woman cannot, and should not, hunt.

Later we see Aisholpan entering the golden eagle festival in Ölgii, a high point in the nomad calendar and a competition her father has won twice. Watching the bird swooping from a mountain in response to the young girl’s call is visually astonishing, but it also shows the huntress’s resolve in the face of older male competitors. “She is strong,” Bell says. “She loves to win – whether it is chequers, wrestling with boys, or hunting with an eagle.”

As a result of her fame, Aisholpan has been given a scholarship to one of Mongolia’s best schools, while an educational trust set up for her also means she can pursue her other lifelong dream: to become a doctor.

The Eagle Huntress is out now in the US; released in the UK on 16 December. We urge you to check this film out and get inspired to discover Mongolia and its people. 

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