A Mongolian Father-Daughter Story: Movie Review of The Eagle Huntress (2016)

This is the most important father-daughter movie you will see this year. I recommend watching it twice: watch Aisholpan first, watch her father the second time.

Aisholpan and her father looking for an eaglet for her to train

A father’s faith

Thirteen-year-old Aisholpan wants to hunt with her own eagle, like nine generations before her. Succeeding means becoming the first female Mongolian eagle hunter. Believing boys and girls are equal, her father risks shame and community disapproval to support her dream and raise a powerful woman. This film is as much about a remarkable father and family as a remarkable girl.

The horse-mounted eagle hunters of Mongol and Hun fame (remember Disney villain Shan Yu in the animated Mulan?) live on, captured in this magnificent documentary about daddy-daughter time in outer Mongolia. The scene in which Aisholpan and her father chase a fox across a snowy landscape while carrying 15-pound eagles, captured an exhilarating moment that could have been from fifty or five hundred years ago.

This family’s life seems harmonious, balanced. They live in a yurt in the summer and move to a permanent structure in the winter. They have horses, cattle, and eagles. Aisholpan and her two younger siblings board at school during the week (where they learn English!) and return home every weekend.

Aisholpan practicing catching her eagle on her arm

Both girl and hunter

Adorable, inspiring Aisholpan:

  • Paints her fingernails and chooses a pink hairbow for the annual eagle hunting competition
  • Climbs to an eagle’s nest on a mountain to capture an eaglet for training
  • Hunts on horseback for foxes in subzero weather
  • Calls her eagle in a joyful, triumphant voice
  • Moves with calm and sure energy, like her father

Aisholpan is not daring or showy. She just wants to do something she has seen her father and grandfather do her whole life; she wants to be like them.

Supported by Dad’s confidence, love, patience, and training, she could not fail.

A documentary can lie by omission, but her eagle’s abilities and performance reveal a successful pairing and a secure home. If Aisholpan was pressured by her father, her anxiety would affect the bird and it would not be as calm.

Aisholpan and her dad hunting for fox with their eagles

Nurturing the warrior within

Encouraging a warrior spirit is not about teaching aggression or fighting skills. It is:

  • Teaching an indomitable mindset – the mountain is just one small step at a time
  • Telling her to get up and try again when she falls down or fails
  • Raising her with love and support so she’s unafraid of failure or letting you down
  • Understanding that failure is an opportunity to learn
  • Encouraging activities that build a strong mind and body
  • Persisting when times are tough
  • Developing inner pride and self-worth independent of external praise or recognition

Your Turn

Without revealing any spoilers, what is your favorite part of The Eagle Huntress?

How wonderful for Aisholpan’s family and village to allow the film crew access to this significant part of their culture. Thank you.

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