Eagle Huntress

John Thomas

A thirteen year old girl (Aisholpan Nurgaiv) has a vision. No, it’s not of herself in a new glittery outfit or texting her friends on the latest iPhone, she visions herself as a female eagle huntress and entering an international eagle hunting competition.

Otto Bell, the film’s director, describes Aisholpans challenges in a beautiful, sensitive and caring way. The gorgeous rolling Mongolian scenery is creatively shown using varied camera angles, from sky-high to ground level, slow motion, close-ups and panoramic distance shots. The music is fitting and adds to the overall feeling Mr. Bell has for the story. The costumes (and some tents) are rich in design and color and a little flamboyant at times – think fur coats and big hats. The actors are real people, Aisholpan Nurgaiv plays herself, and her father Rhys Nurgaiv also plays himself. The films narration is read by Daisy Ridley.

Besides being a girl participating in a male dominated sport, she faces other challenges.

The first one was to crawl up a ragged cliff to capture the bird. Then she had to train it to fly away, hunt and come back to her outstretched arm using voice commands. Is the eagle heavy? – think walking around a super market with a 15-pound turkey on your arm. The arm and the rest of her body is ensconced in inches-thick insulating clothing that seriously limits mobility. Finally, if carrying this eagle around on ones padded arm weren’t enough, one has to do it on horse-back through fields of snow two feet deep, not knowing if there is solid ground under the snow or a gaping hole to stumble into.

The smile that is ever present on Aisholpans face indicates that she’s happy, enjoying the challenge and the support of her family. Her mother, responding to a question about her participating a mans sport, merely shrugs slightly, smiles gently and says something like: “She would rather spend time with her father than stay at home.” Her siblings and school-mates all support her as do some members of the male community – most of the men will wait and see.

So why considered this a good holiday movie? For one thing the characters make one feel good because they are happy; have goals to work towards and find joy in simple things like nature and the comfort of friendship. They may not have a flat-screen TV, but they do have a small, yellow plastic radio. Do they laugh and have fun? – Yes, they do both. As we head towards a New Year people often reflect on the previous one and consider their future. Do the things they have make them happy or do the things they don’t have make then sad? Seeing a film like the Eagle Huntress, so filled with joy and happiness may just cause the viewer to reflect on their own wishes and values. I think it was a wise decision that Aisholpan didn’t opt for the new dress or phone.

John Thomas, a Belmont Shore resident, has written 13 online stories, seven print stories and reviews of movies shown at international film festivals, all under the name: Notes from Johan.




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