Though I am not a raptor fan ( and often , like James Audubon and Benjamin Franklin, wish this bird of prey was not chosen for our National emblem) , I am mesmerized by its ability to soar. Maybe, this is what our forefathers’ 1782 selection of the Bald Eagle was meant to symbolize ~all the possibilities of freedom.
In the documentary,”The Eagle Huntress”, the Golden Eagle stars. Unlike the Bald Eagle ( Haliaeetus leuccephalus ), the Golden Eagle ( Aguilera chrysaetos ) is less of a scavenger and has leg plummage. The Bald Eagle has a white-feathered head, not bald at all. Both predators have the amazing ability to lock their feathers and ride the thermal currents. Director Otto Bell succeeds in showing viewers that the eagle is no ordinary bird.
Our human stars are a father and daughter pair who will delight you in every way. Aisholpan Nurgaiv is thirteen, and she is fascinated with her father and grandfather’s legendary quest and its two-thousand -year -old tradition. Her father, Rhys Nurgaiv, is a gentle, encouraging teacher. In the remote Mongolian mountains of Altai, we follow their nomadic way of life and watch their teamwork in capturing a three-month-old eaglet from its lofty, craggy-crested aerie.
Rhys constant affirmations of Aisholpan’s attempts in training her specimen should be modeled by all teachers. He prays for her aloud: ” May God help you on your Eagle path. May no horse leave you. May nature …”. Honor and tradition are respected, yet Rhys has no doubt that his daughter can break the gender boundary that the older tribesmen hold. They have their doubts. Woman power becomes a theme. Aisholpan will hold rank with Elizabeth Blackwell as a female first for her tribe.
English actress Daisy Ridley provides the narration since the language spoken is Kazakh. The Festival Contest is suspenseful and enthralling. When our Huntress raises her gloved arm and calls for her bird, we gasp at its powerful landing. Her pride and its power and the sweeping aerial photography is spellbinding. Children should be seeing this as a respite from animated Pixel lessons.
The methodology in Aishopan’s training was my favorite part. She calls the eagle to eat and feeds small pieces of sinew to it by hand. Using a rabbit pelt, our young huntress practices developing the eagle’s flying style. His response time is clocked and perfected. Their bond and skill is honed. A fox must be hunted and downed before full eagle hunter status is given. Icy cliffs form the backdrop. Patience and extreme weather are givens.
Seventy contestants gather in the city for the annual Goldn Eagle Festival competition. Cloud-shadows move across rock formations. Outfit, horse, equipment, speed and skills are all panel judged. A ten point system is used. By the time the blue flag is dropped, we are thinking more of freedom than trophy. Each bird only remains with its human family for seven years. Then it is returned back into the wild. Its high-pitched ” kee-kee”, the borderless land, and a young girl’s triumphant smile make this film a winner.