I saw The Eagle Huntress yesterday, and it’s coming to the UK on wider release in the next few months. Mark your diaries now.
Filmed in the Altai mountains in North-West Mongolia over a year by a crew of three and their 700kg of equipment that sometimes grounded their plane, it’s the moving and uplifting story of a 13 year old girl who wants to be an eagle hunter, a role previously preserved with men. With the encouragement of her father and grandfather, national champions themselves, she captures her first eaglet and the documentary takes off from there.
First, though, there is stunning cinematography of the mountains in winter and Asholipan’s grandfather releasing his latest eagle into the wild, the rule being that golden eagles are only used to hunt for seven years before being set free. The terrain and the bond of man and bird are made clear instantly, and this strength follows through into our introduction to the family. In terms of the editing, there is an uplifting mix of wide panning shots of gulfs and valleys shot on a drone, interspersed with rapidly cut images of the mountains throughout the year.
Most heartening of all is the way the film itself has gathered pace since airing – the profits are shared with the family being filmed and now guarantee that their daughter can study medicine wherever she wants, whilst Daisy Ridley offered to narrate the voiceover after seeing a first cut at Sundance this year, and Sia wrore and recorded the title song in a day after viewing it in Toronto last month.
This is film making of complete integrity, all pretence stripped away under the harsh sunlight of the plains, and the result is a film that delivers a knockout of total conviction and honesty.
Top image from the BBC photojournalism piece that alerted Otto Bell to the story; photo of the Altai mountains and plain from the website of the tour organiser traveldragon.com