The Eagle Huntress
Sony Pictures // G // $26.99 // February 7, 2017
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted February 15, 2017
Highly Recommended
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Graphical Version
The Eagle Huntress Blu-ray Review

The Eagle Huntress is an inspiring and heart-lifting documentary feature from first-time director Otto Bell. The film tells the true story of a 13 year old girl named Aisholpan who becomes the first female eagle hunter. It is a tradition passed down generation-to-generation from father to son and it has lasted for centuries. Narrated by Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), The Eagle Huntress is produced by director Otto Bell with Sharon Chang (Trophy) and Stacey Reiss (Suited). Executive produced by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold) and Daisy Ridley.

Aisholpan Nurgaiv wants to be an eagle hunter. What is an eagle hunter? An eagle hunter is someone who works alongside an eagle while going hunting. Eagle hunters also performs creative and traditional ceremonies (as well as enter competitions with one another). It is a form of falconry practiced by the Kazakh people.  It's Aisholpan's dream to become one: to follow in the footsteps of her father Rys Nurgaiv and keep the longstanding tradition going.

Though the tradition has lasted 12 generations in her family, Aisholpan would become the first female eagle hunter. Her father, Rys, is entirely supportive of her desire to continue the family tradition and he helps train her in the ways of being an eagle hunter. They go out on missions together and Aisholpan learns the craft of eagle hunting. The documentary is as much a great testament to the love between a father and daughter as it is a testament to a girl overcoming gender stereotypes and discrimination.

Though many of the village elders disapprove of Aisholpan becoming an eagle hunter (they often provide remarks in the documentary about how "fragile" girls are and say they are "too weak" to do something that only a man can do), Aisholpan tries her hardest to be the best eagle hunter that she can be. She breaks barriers and makes strides while pursuing her dream. And that makes the film an inspiration and a moving documentary which should be shared, especially, with girls: it's a testament to the human spirit and to the roles of women (who can, despite the blatant sexism from village elders, do anything).

The origins of The Eagle Huntress began with a photograph of Aisholpan as an eagle hunter. Director Otto Bell saw a picture of her and heard  about her story. From there, Bell saw an opportunity for a feature length documentary and the film was developed. This film is the documentary feature-film debut for Bell, who has crafted an exceptional documentary. It's certainly remarkable for a debut effort. With breathtaking cinematography by Simon Niblett (Penguins) and effective music by Jeff Peters (American Pickers),  The Eagle Huntress is an important documentary about following one's dreams, breaking down barriers, and soaring for the skies.

The Blu-ray:


The Eagle Huntress is presented on Blu-ray with a rather impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. This is a generally strong and proficient presentation of the film. The cinematography is certainly gorgeous and this is a wonderfully produced documentary with great scope and vision.


The audio is presented in Kazakh 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film has a surprisingly effective sound stage for a documentary production. The music score is especially well implemented. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), Spanish, and French.


Audio Commentary with director Otto Bell

Capturing The Eagle Huntress (10 min., HD) is a featurette about the production of the film, featuring interviews with director Otto Bell, cinematographer Simon Niblett, and executive producer/narrator Daisy Ridley.

Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts:                                                  

The Eagle Huntress is a wonderful documentary film about a girl following her heart's dreams and breaking down gender barriers in her society. It's also a wonderful testament to the strong connection and love within a family. The filmmaking is exquisite. This is a documentary well worth discovering.

Highly Recommended.

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