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Soaring high

by David Lamble

Aisholpan is the first girl in her Kazakh family to<br>become an eagle hunter, in Otto Bell's <i>The Eagle Huntress.</i><br> Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
Aisholpan is the first girl in her Kazakh family to
become an eagle hunter, in Otto Bell's The Eagle Huntress.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics  

Director Otto Bell's The Eagle Huntress is a hypnotically lensed coming-of-age tale. It reminded this critic of the sort of modern Western, like Martin Ritt's Hud, from 1960s Hollywood, when filmmakers were making the transition from the studio system to the brave and financially risky world of independent moviemaking. Set in an impossibly windswept and seemingly barren landscape in Mongolia, The Eagle Huntress updates Hollywood's traditional male puberty-ritual adventure stories to encompass the dreams of a girl who embarks on one of her tribe's "sacred stories" by training a bird to hunt foxes for their pelts, just the way boys have always done. The story of how 13-year-old Aisholpan passes her supreme test is dramatically compelling in a film that's a cross between a gorgeous nature doc and a Third World feminist empowerment fable.

Bell and his team demonstrate just how deeply the postmodern world is impinging on other tribes. One of the film's subplots shows how tribal elders are quick to adapt to changes comparable to those now roiling sunbelt America. (Opens Friday.)

 

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