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The Eagle Huntress (2016)—KazakhstanThe Eagle Huntress (2016)—Kazakhstan

This 90-minute documentary premiered at the 2016 Sundance festival.  It tells the story of a rosy-cheeked 13-year-old Kazakh girl named Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who trained to become the first female falconer in twelve generations of her family history.  In the first part of the film, she captures and then trains an eaglet, and then enters the annual Golden Eagle Festival as the youngest participant and first-ever female handler among 70 competitors.  Then, with her father, she braves the frigid Altai Mountain winter to take her eagle fox hunting.  The film works well at several levels.  In featuring the nomadic family life of Kazakh herders in western Mongolia, it's an ethnographic delight.  It's also a science and nature story — it's remarkable to see how the eagles are trained, what they can do, and the bond with their handlers.  Drone cameras capture the spectacular scenery of the Mongolian steppe, which is worth watching for its own sake. The movie is also a tender father-daughter story.  Most of all, this is a coming of age story that's brimming with female empowerment despite the grumbling of the culturally conservative men.  The film is in Kazakh with English subtitles.

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