It seems only fitting on this International Women’s Day that I review a movie about one of the most inspiring and unknown women of recent times. In her nomadic eagle hunter tribe eagle hunting is men’s tradition and passed down son to son. Thirteen year old Aisholpan Nurgaiv didn’t like that so asked her father to train her to become the first Eagle Huntress in her family, and he said yes. Was it easy? Hell no? Does she endure all odds more than most mere mortals? Hell yes! THE EAGLE HUNTRESS is an art-house cinematic marvel releasing in Australia on Thursday 16th March from Sony Pictures Releasing Australia. It is rated G and runs for 87 mind-blowing minutes.



THE EAGLE HUNTRESS follows Aisholpan, a 13 year old girl, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her family to become an eagle hunter, and rises to the pinnacle of an ancient tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. Set against the breathtaking expanse of the Mongolian steppe, THE EAGLE HUNTRESS features some of the most awe-inspiring cinematography ever captured in a documentary, giving this intimate tale of a young girl’s quest the dramatic force of a narrative film.

It’s important to note that Aisholpan is not the first modern Kazakh eagle huntress. An older lady from Kazakhstan named Makpal Abdrazakova preceded her in training an eagle. However, it is extremely rare, and she is the first Mongolian female to compete at the Golden Eagle Festival in Ölgii. And she’s the first woman in 12 generations of her own family line to commit to the process of becoming a master eagle hunter.


Aisholpan Nurgaiv and Her Eagle image



My mind is abuzz with love for this movie. I have so much love for it I am trying to narrow it in my scrambled mind to sensical words. Let’s start with the first and clear winner of this movie, the cinematography. It is the single best cinematography I have ever seen. I honestly shed tears watching THE EAGLE HUNTRESS purely at the majesty and beauty of what I was seeing on screen. It is truly breathtaking.

Then there is the family story and the pure love in this family. Everyone is supported, anything is possible and there is no prejudice. Aisholpan grew up as a child who spent and enjoyed her father’s company more. In their tribal traditions men hunt and train their eagles and the women are responsible for maintaining the house and preparing the food. The mother says she is sad she doesn’t spend as much time with Aisholpan as she would like but she is so incredibly happy for her daughter, the pride is visually evident in her eyes.

What a life these people live, nomadic people in a harsh environment, it is so pure and alluring. They live off the land in an amazing tent in warmer months and into a house for the harsher months. And while they are out in the middle of nowhere Aisholpan still goes to a normal school in town to learn. Their life is so brilliant. And all the time they have giant eagles in the house with them.


The Eagle Huntress Rys Nurgaiv image



There is one important message in this move – it screams from the screen. EQUALITY. In a time when the modern world has lost its mind and is throwing people out of countries, putting walls up against people in need and treating females and same sex people still as unequal citizens, in Mongolia, these nomadic tribes manage a more utopian and intelligent life. They have elements that disagree with Aisholpan’s journey but that doesn’t stop progress. Her father embraces her plan because it is what she wants. At the Golden Eagle Festival at first people laugh at her being so young and female, but her skills draw not only their respect but their ultimate praise.

Aisholpan represents women of the world, she is bold, she is strong and she can do whatever the men can do. The old guard of the Mongolian Eagle Hunters represent unwillingness to change, they disagree with it wholeheartedly. Their disapproval is often quite hilarious because they are all quite old and they are still in their generational thought. The camera flashes to each of them basically shaking their heads and saying they belong in the kitchen. Aisholpan’s family and the growing populace from the Golden Eagle Festival represent what is right in the world, they are the future and it is beautiful. There is no malice, there is no hatred, there is love and support.


Aisholpan Nurgaiv and Her Eagle image



Documentarian Otto Bell deserves every award that is coming his way. Oddly I thought this would have been a female director, but more credit to Bell. Bell’s inspiration came from seeing photos from Asher Svidensky – you have to see his photos, they are spellbinding – click HERE. He saw the pics and thought there was a movie in the photos and thank god for his whim – because we get to see magic. He knew this movie had to be made and so he liquidated his life to raise a mere $80000 and then took a bank loan for another $12000. That is less than $100k to make this – and still the best cinematography of all time.

He ran out of money following the initial shoot and realised they had to return to shoot The Winter Hunt – it was absolutely necessary to the success of the movie. He sent photos and footage pleading to Docco Powerhouse Producer Morgan Spurlock, who loved it so much his first words were “It’s fantastic. I’ve never seen anything like this. How can I help you?” It then skyrocketed into success and completion.

They approached Daisy (Jedi) Ridley to narrate, she saw the footage and loved it. She not only signed to narrate, she became an Executive Producer on the film. Her vocals beautifully accompany the visual, they are soft and non-invasive and are just there when needed. If being a Jedi fails her there is a definite future narrating.


Animal activists won’t love how the eagles are taken to become a member of the family. I respect that. But if you asked Aisholpan and her family what an animal activist was I could imagine them staring blankly into space with no clue. They must do a harrowing challenge to (basically) steal an eagle from its nest and then raise it as their own. The eagle serves with them as their life-partner really for a number of years and is then released back into the wild to raise its own family and live a natural life. It is beautiful and when you see it you know it is an ancient bond between this animal and this tribe of people.


Aisholpan Nurgaiv and Her Eagle image



THE EAGLE HUNTRESS is one of the most beautiful things you will ever see on a cinema screen. It is also the ultimate in a girl power movie. It needs to be experienced on a big screen and it is disappointing it is not getting a wide release because this would make the perfect first documentary for young children and will be loved by all who see it.


Melbourne – Cinema Nova, Sun Yarraville, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Kino,
Palace Como, Palace Balwyn, Classic Elsternwick, Lido Hawthorn and Cameo Belgrave

Sydney –  Dendy Newtown and Randwick Ritz

Canberra –Palace Electric

Brisbane – Palace Centro and New Farm

Adelaide – Palace Nova Eastend Cinema

Perth – Luna Palace Leederville

Hobart – State Cinema





 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan.  ** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.