The Eagle Huntress

A beautifully-shot documentary about a Kazakh teenager called Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who is trained by her father to hunt prey on horseback with a trained eagle, and who later competes in an annual eagle hunter tournament, which is usually the preserve of men. She seems to effortlessly master the events in this competition, and is criticised by bitter old men as a result of her debut success, though I gather the filmmaker Otto Bell has been pulled up for suggesting that Aisholpan is the first and only female eagle hunter, which is apparently not the case. There have been other grumblings since the film’s release, with many critics suggesting that key scenes are staged and guessing that participants were cajoled into saying pre-written lines, something that Bell has denied. The tale is inspiring in the sense it shows a young woman succeeding in a male-dominated world, it contains some superb, encouraging, loyal parenting, and also there’s lots of wonderful scenery, with the eagles looking suitably majestic as they soar around the plains and above mountains. But as to whether it’s genuine or not… (***)