© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Girl Spreads Her Wings In 'Eagle Huntress'


The documentary "The Eagle Huntress" won hearts at the Sundance Film Festival, including that of MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "The Eagle Huntress" is as unlikely as it is enchanting. This stirring documentary story is so satisfying, it makes you feel good about feeling good. The huntress of the title is Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl from Mongolia who went against aeons of tradition by learning to hunt with eagles. Not just any eagles, but formidable golden eagles, 3 feet tall with impressive wings that can span more than 6 feet. To see them grandly soar in flight then land flawlessly on the forearm of this fearless young woman is spectacular.

This film would be a knockout with visuals alone. Among Mongolia's Kazakh people, the tradition has always been to only allow men to hunt with these beasts. Aisholpan's father, for example, was the 12th male generation of his family to do so. But Aisholpan is a bold young person, with an open expressive face. She says she believes girls can do anything boys can.


AISHOLPAN NURGAIV: (Foreign language spoken).

TURAN: When she asks to be trained in the ancient art of hunting foxes with these massive birds, her father does not hesitate to agree.


NURGAIV RYS: (Foreign language spoken).

TURAN: Aisholpan's goal is to be the first woman to take part in Mongolia's annual Golden Eagle Festival, an event that involves competing against dozens of older, more experienced men. She must also prove her mettle by going on a winter hunt in Mongolia's frigid minus-40-degree weather.

The most impressive thing about "The Eagle Huntress," however, is not Aisholpan's accomplishments, but who she is - hard-working, intrepid, cheerful, uncomplaining and excited by new challenges. She is not just a role model for young girls, but an exemplar for all of us, whether we plan on hunting with eagles or not.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the LA Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.