2016 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE EAGLE HUNTRESS

eagle huntressAnd finally, I’ve reached the final doc of this year’s fest lineup, from Sundance Kids: THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, Otto Bell’s look at a Mongolian teenager determined to cross a millennia-old gender barrier.

Festival Section:
Sundance Kids

Sundance Program Description:

Step aside, Katniss! Make room for Aisholpan, the 13-year-old eagle huntress from Mongolia.

For 2,000 years, the Kazakh people of the Altai region in western Mongolia have practiced a tradition of hunting with golden eagles, whose wingspan can reach up to 7.5 feet wide. Though this practice has traditionally been the domain of men, Aisholpan decides that she wants to become an apprentice hunter after spending her childhood helping her father, a renowned eagle hunter, care for his birds. Under the tutelage and support of her father and her grandfather – and very few others – Aisholpan learns all aspects of falconry, from taming her very own eagle to training for an annual competition, where she will compete against 70 eagle hunters on her quest to gain acceptance.

Featuring breathtaking cinematography and intimate footage, this film not only explores the life of a young girl striving to pursue her passion and break down gender barriers in a very traditional culture but also provides an engaging glimpse into the lives of this remote community, as they balance their traditional lifestyle with the modern world.

Some Background:
Director/Producer: Otto Bell
Bell is the VP and creative director of Courageous, Turner Broadcasting’s branded content studio. He previously was creative director at OgilvyEntertainment, where he created long- and short-form branded content for clients such as DuPont, IBM, Cisco, Unilever, and The Economist. This is his feature debut.

Producers: Stacey Reiss and Sharon Chang
Reiss is a Sundance alum as a producer of shorts IT’S ME, HILARY: THE MAN WHO DREW ELOISE (2015) and I KNEW IT WAS YOU (2009), and also produced fellow fellow 2016 doc feature SUITED. Chang is the philanthropist, entrepreneur, and strategist behind social innovation/media strategy-focused Yoxi.

Executive Producers: Morgan Spurlock, Jeremy Chilnick, Susan MacLaury, Barbara Dobkin, Dan Cogan, Regina K Scully, and Marc H Simon
This is the latest of several Sundance credits for Warrior Poets’ Spurlock and Chilnick, most recently at the festival with last year’s CENSORED VOICES, WEB JUNKIE (2014), and the short YOU DON’T KNOW JACK (2013).

ShineGlobal’s MacLaury executive produced Sundance US Documentary Directing Award-winner WAR/DANCE (2007), which went on to be nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar. She also executive produced the Oscar-winning doc short INOCENTE.

Dobkin is a philanthropist who has previously executive produced Sundance titles HOT GIRLS WANTED (2015), THE HUNTING GROUND (2015), and CHILDREN OF INVENTION (2009).

Impact Partners’ Cogan also executive produced fellow 2016 films NUTS! and NOTES ON BLINDNESS. His extensive alumni credits most recently include last year’s CENSORED VOICES, THE HUNTING GROUND, SEMBENE!, DREAMCATCHER, HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD, and CHUCK NORRIS VS COMMUNISM.

Philanthropist Scully has also supported several 2016 titles via her Artemis Rising Foundation: NEWTOWN; MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE; RESILIENCE; and UNDER THE GUN. Her recent alumni projects as executive producer include DREAMCATCHER, THE HUNTING GROUND (2015), and PRIVATE VIOLENCE (2014), among others.

Filmmaker and noted entertainment attorney Simon is a Sundance alum as the producer of the special jury prize-winning AFTER INNOCENCE (2005).

Editor: Pierre Takal
This marks Takal’s first Sundance credit. His previous work includes television work, such as Warrior Poets’ series MORGAN SPURLOCK INSIDE MAN, and the Spurlock helmed ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US music doc feature.

Why You Should Watch:
Aisholpan’s well-shot, inspirational story offers audiences a window into a fascinating community and its celebrated traditional hunting process as the young would-be falconer challenges them to modernize along gender lines.

More Info:

For Sundance screening date and time, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2016 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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