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The Eagle Huntress

The Eagle Huntress
The Eagle Huntress.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Otto Bell
Produced by
Starring Aisholpan Nurgaiv
Narrated by Daisy Ridley
Music by Jeff Peters
Cinematography Simon Niblett
Edited by Pierre Takal
  • Kissaki Films
  • Stacey Reiss Productions
Distributed by
Release date
  • 24 January 2016 (2016-01-24) (Sundance)
  • 2 November 2016 (2016-11-02) (United States)
  • 16 December 2016 (2016-12-16) (United Kingdom)
Running time
87 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • Mongolia
  • United States
Language Kazakh
Box office $3 million[2]

The Eagle Huntress is a 2016 Kazakh-language British-Mongolian-American documentary film directed by Otto Bell and executive-produced by Morgan Spurlock and Daisy Ridley, who served as narrator.[3] The film was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary[4] and nominated for the BAFTA for Best Documentary.[5]


The Eagle Huntress follows the story of Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Mongolia, as she attempts to become the first female eagle hunter in her country. She belongs to a family of nomads that spend their summers in a yurt in the Altai Mountains and their winters in a house in town. The men in her family have been eagle hunters for seven generations,[6] and she wants to follow in their footsteps.

With her father Nurgaiv's help, she learns how to train golden eagles, and then captures and trains her own eaglet. Although she faces some disbelief and opposition within the traditionally male tradition, she becomes the first female to enter the competition at the annual Golden Eagle Festival. She ends up winning the competition, and her eaglet breaks a speed record in one of the events.

After the competition, she takes the final step toward becoming an eagle hunter by traveling with her father to the mountains in the winter to hunt foxes, braving snowy conditions and extreme cold. After some initial misses, her eaglet successfully kills its first fox and she returns home.

The film's dialog is in Kazakh; the narration is in English.


The film's soundtrack features the original song "Angel by the Wings" by Sia, which was released worldwide on December 2, 2016.[7][8][9]


The Eagle Huntress premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics for the US and Altitude Film Distribution in the UK. Afterwards, international distribution was handled by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. Following the film's premiere, co-executive producer Daisy Ridley agreed to add narration, comprising approximately five minutes total time in the 87-minute film.[10]


The documentary was a New York Times Critics Pick[11] and a LA Times Critics Pick.[12] Chief Film Critics at the New York Times, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, called the film “a bliss out”[13] and “a movie that expands your sense of what is possible”[14] respectively. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% "Certified Fresh" approval rating based on 89 "fresh" reviews and 7 "rotten" reviews. The consensus states: "Effectively stirring and bolstered by thrilling visuals, The Eagle Huntress uses its heartwarming message to fill up a feature that might have made for an even more powerful short film."[15] Metacritic reports a 72 out of 100 score based on 20 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[16]


The film has generated some debate since its release, as some North American researchers felt the film had overstated the amount of opposition Aisholpan faced as a female eagle hunter in North West Mongolia. They also pointed out that other women in other parts of the world have trained as eagle hunters before this movie was filmed.[17] The filmmakers have repeatedly corrected an initial BBC report that stated Aisholpan “could be the world’s only girl hunting with a golden eagle”[18] in multiple press interviews.[19][20] Primary, on-the-ground research that predates the filming of the documentary also suggests that women in Aisholpan's region face a “knee-jerk reaction based on a traditionalist understanding of society and the sexes,” such that their achievements “are dismissed by nearly every prominent falconer in Central Asia” because they represented “a serious disturbance in how things are done.” [21] Aisholpan has also confirmed the resistance she initially faced in her own words in numerous press interviews.[22][23]


Aisholpan has stated her desire to study medicine and become a doctor.[24] The filmmakers have made Aisholpan and her family profit participants in the documentary and have established a fund to help pay for Aisholpan’s higher education.[25] The filmmakers also donated the prize money they received from winning Best Documentary at the Hamptons Film Festival to this fund.[26]


  1. ^ "The Eagle Huntress (U)". British Board of Film Classification. 14 November 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016. 
  2. ^ "Box Office Mojo: The Eagle Huntress Domestic Total as of February 20, 2017"
  3. ^ "Mongolia's Teen Eagle Huntress Deserves to Be the Next Elsa". Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  4. ^ "Oscars 2017 Documentary Shortlist"
  5. ^ "2017 BAFTA Awards Nominees List"
  6. ^ Barbara J. King (28 January 2016). "Teenage 'Eagle Huntress' Overturns 2,000 Years Of Male Tradition". NPR. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  7. ^ Lars Brandle (2016-01-20). "Sia Records 'Angel By The Wings' for New Film 'The Eagle Huntress': Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  8. ^ Seth Kelley (2016-08-05). "'The Eagle Huntress' Trailer: Daisy Ridley Narrates the Documentary". Variety. Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  9. ^ Stephanie Eckardt (2016-10-25). "The Incredible Story Behind the Film "The Eagle Huntress"". W Magazine. Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  10. ^ Guerrasio, Jason. "How a movie about eagle hunting nabbed a Star Wars lead actor and a chart-topping singer", Business Insider, 2016-09-24, Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  11. ^ "The Eagle Huntress Review"
  12. ^ "'The Eagle Huntress' and More Critics' Picks"
  13. ^ ""Sundance Fights Tide with Films Like 'The Birth of a Nation'"
  14. ^ "The Eagle Huntress Review"
  15. ^ "The Eagle Huntress (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  16. ^ "The Eagle Huntress reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 14 November 2016. 
  17. ^ "Is The Eagle Huntress Really a Documentary?"
  18. ^ "A 13-year-old eagle huntress in Mongolia"
  19. ^ "Teenage Eagle Hunter is Mongolia's New Movie Star"
  20. ^ "Otto Bell: The Eagle Huntress"
  21. ^ []
  22. ^ "A Documentary Star is Born: The Girl Who Hunts with Eagles"
  23. ^ "Aisholpan Nurgaiv and Director Otto Bell Talk to Me About The Eagle Huntress and Girl Power"
  24. ^ "13-Year-Old Eagle Huntress Gives Great Advice for People Too Scared to Follow Their Dreams"
  25. ^ "Otto Bell on the Structure of 'The Eagle Huntress' and Telling Aisholpan's Story"
  26. ^ "The Eagle Huntress Wins Best Documentary at Hamptons Film Fest"

External links