Friday, December 16, 2016

Soaring, Stunning, Exhilarating!

Review: The Eagle Huntress, documentary film by Otto Bell

From the opening scenes, breath-takingly beautiful scenery and uplifting emotions carry to the skies this lovely film about a young woman in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia who seeks to follow her father's and grandfather's footsteps, and become an eagle hunter, despite long tradition that limits this role to men only.

Director Otto Bell and his film crew have done an outstanding job of letting the harsh landscape, the demands of life on the mountains and steppes, and the stunning courage of 13-year-old Aisholpan and her family, inform every part of this incredibly moving story.

I actually teared up at the beginning, watching an eagle hunter (Aisholpan's grandfather) release an eagle back to the wild after seven years of hunting with it. Then the tears struck again at the memorial credit at the end of the film.

In between, the thrilling saga of the girl's dream—and her work—to capture an eaglet, train it and herself, and compete in the national Eagle Hunters Festival in Ulgii is told simply and with little pontificating. Like all successful dreamers, Aisholpan doesn't let the negative feedback from more traditional-minded Eagle Hunters keep her from pursuing her goal.

The choice of a Sia song for the closing credits, Angel by the Wings, is totally appropriate:
You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything
You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything
Look up, call to the sky
Oh, look up and don't ask why, oh
Just take an angel by the wings...

This film is only in "art cinemas" rather than a wider release, so we drove in pouring rain to a neighboring town and climbed three flights of stairs to watch it in a local cinema. Ken Cummings, who suggested the film, and I, with our respective spouses joined three other people to watch the matinee showing in the tiny theater.

Despite these drawbacks (limited release into smaller venues, English subtitling, lack of Hollywood "names" being involved—although Daisy Ridley, "Rey" of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, provides the narration), I predict the film will do well. It deserves to. And with a G rating, this is a much better choice for family viewing at Christmas than some films in theaters over the holiday (Rogue One, and Assassin's Creed, to name two), and if the word gets out about it, it may even hold its own against heavyweights like Disney's Moana and J.K. Rowlings' Fantastic Beasts and Where to FInd Them.

I believe adults who take their children will also thoroughly enjoy The Eagle Huntress, which is more than I would commit to for either of the other two kid-friendly films.