This young lady is WAY cooler than some “gender-fluid” actor. This is a film worth seeing and worth the recognition. Just check out the trailer! You. Will. LOVE. It!
Bonus! The film is rated G, so watch it with the whole family!
Otto Bell was surfing the web at work when he saw the photographs that enticed him to sink his life savings into his first feature film. On his screen was a rosy-cheeked, Mongolian girl. Perched on a mountain ridge, she was smiling with delight at a ferocious golden eagle flapping on her arm.
The scene was a world away from the office cubicle in New York where Bell was sitting. The shots were taken in the Altai mountains which, Bell points out, “is the most remote part of the least-populated country in the world”. The 35-year-old had no financing and had only ever made short, commercially funded documentaries. Yet in a “pretty short time”, he had tracked down the young Israeli photographer Asher Svidensky, convinced an American cameraman to accompany them, and was on a flight to Mongolia to track down the teenager.
The result is a joyful, majestic film – a documentary (narrated by Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley) that feels like a fairytale as it follows 13-year-old Aisholpan’s quest to become a record-breaking eagle hunter. Amongst her nomadic Kazakh community, the tradition of capturing and training young golden eagles to hunt foxes and rabbits is passed down from father to son. And to achieve her dreams, Aisholpan must overcome the scathing elders, who insist that a woman cannot, and should not, hunt.
Sitting in a smart London hotel, with the film hitting $1.2m at the US box office and shortlisted for an Oscar, the 35-year-old can afford to laugh at his recklessness. “Kids, animals, extreme conditions, a foreign language,” he reels off with a laugh, “all the things you are not supposed to work with.”
It wasn’t just the painterly beauty of the photographs that drew him in, but their cinematic qualities: “A beautiful location, a fantastic bird and Aisholpan – even in that photograph she looks angelic, but also really strong.”
The day the trio finally tracked down the nomadic family, Bell was nervous they might be wary of being filmed. Instead her father Nurgaiv made an extraordinary offer. “He said, ‘This afternoon we are going down the mountain to steal an eagle for Aisholpan. Do you want to film that?’”
Aisholpan had her eye on a fledgling. For days, she had been watching her (female eagles are always used because they are larger) through her father’s old broken binoculars. She was the perfect age to be taken: able to survive without her mother, but young enough to be trained.