There are some movies that are best seen on the big screen for their amazing cinematography. And “The Eagle Huntress” – the next film featured in the Grand County Public Library and the Utah Film Center’s free series – is one of those.
Set in the expansive grasslands of Mongolia, “The Eagle Huntress” is about a 13-year-old nomadic girl named Aisholpan, who seeks to be the first female in 12 generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter – bucking a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries.
While many old Kazakh eagle hunters vehemently reject the idea of a girl taking part in the ancient tradition, her father Nurgaiv is supportive, believing a girl can do anything she wants if she has the determination.
“The Eagle Huntress” will be screened at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St., on Thursday, June 15, at 7 p.m.
The film begins with Aisholpan ready to set out to capture an eagle of her own after having trained with her father’s eagle for several months. The film shows her using a rope to climb down a steep rock cliff to retrieve a fledgling eagle from its nest as its mother circles overhead. After years of training and hunting with the eagle, she will eventually release it back into the wild so “the cycle of life can continue.”
Utah Film Center Program Coordinator Davey Davis said the real-life Aisholpan is often compared to the fictional characters Moana (who stars in the most recent animated Disney movie by the same name), and Katniss Everdeen, the heroine in “The Hunger Games.”
“Her story is a root-for-it showcase of a young woman in a conservative patriarchal society doing great things with her talents as an eagle trainer,” Davis said.
The film is also appealing for its interesting characters, “breathtaking vistas,” and its peek at the Mongolian Kazakh culture, which has been little encountered by outsiders, Davis added.
Library staff considers suggestions and feedback from patrons when making its film selections, and many community members recommended “The Eagle Huntress,” Grand County Library Assistant Jessie Magleby said.
“The scenery and cinematography are exquisite,” Magleby said. “The chance to learn of the rich culture of the nomadic Kazakh people is enticing and we appreciate the theme of female empowerment: young Aisholpan is undaunted by hardship and adversity and is determined to prove her strength and bravery in the typically male-dominated tradition of hunting with eagles.”
The library has worked with the Salt Lake City-based Utah Film Center for five years to bring a “remarkable selection of documentary and feature films to Star Hall,” Magleby said.
The film has received numerous awards, including the Audience Award at the Middleburg, Mill Valley, Denver and Hawaii International film festivals, and Best Documentary Feature at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Additionally, the National Board of Review named it among the top five documentaries, and it was a Producers Guild Awards Nominee for Best Documentary Feature. The film also received three Critics Choice nominations.
“The Eagle Huntress” was executive produced and narrated by Daisy Ridley of “Star Wars” fame, and directed by Otto Bell.
The film showings are always free, although donations are accepted.
“The Eagle Huntress” bucks tradition in nomadic culture
Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.
When: Thursday, June 15, at 7 p.m.
Cost: Free; Donations accepted