Middleburg Film Festival '16: "The Eagle Huntress" Review

As children, we look up to our parents and are impacted by their example whether positive or negative.  So why would it be alarming that 13 year old Aisholpan Nurgaiv would want to follow in her father’s footsteps as a hunter in Kazakh tradition? Perhaps because for centuries, the role of eagle hunter has been held by men. The new documentary, The Eagle Huntress, follows Aisholpan on her harrowing journey to buck tradition and make her family proud.

The film introduces us to the Nurgaiv family in the mountains of Mongolia.  The tight knit family lives an isolated but busy life. We find Aisholpan on the cusp of getting her own golden eagle, the beautiful bird used to assist in hunting. The eagles aren’t just handed to hunters. Hunters have to scale the mountains to get eaglets at a time when they can’t yet fly in order to raise and train them. With the help of her father, she does, and it’s absolutely breathtaking!

Armed with her eagle, Aisholpan trains to compete in the annual eagle hunter festival. Traditionally an all male competition, eyes roll and heads turn as she rides in with her father. Yet that doesn’t stop Aisholpan. Perhaps her youth allows her to ignore her haters, or maybe it’s the insurmountable love and pride that her father instills in her. Whatever it is, Aisholpan is confident and unwavering in her quest to be an eagle hunter.  Which gives us comical moments with the quick juxtaposition of the elders talking against her, and then being forced to eat humble pie quickly after.

Director Otto Bell uses his camera and drone technology to beautifully capture the unforgiving landscape, while telling an intimate story. This film could only be told now. Using his life savings to help fund the film, drone footage gives us beautiful aerials while mountable cameras allow us to see Aisholpan’s first person view as she scales the mountain to retrieve her eaglet. While the visuals and David vs. Goliath story is incredible, Bell never loses sight of the heart of the film. The relationship between Aisholpan and her father is a universal, tangible display of love.

While viewing The Eagle Huntress you’ll forget that you’re watching a documentary because it is so gorgeously shot that it looks more like a narrative feature. It has everything from action to comedy within the film and manages to keep a complex story simple. While Aisholpan is a heroine in her own right with the amazing feats she accomplishes, she’s also a teenage girl who likes to laugh with her friends at school. Honestly, that’s what makes her that much more awesome!

Rating: A

 

Check out my interview with director Otto Bell and the film's stars here:

 http://picturelockshow.com/podcast/2016/11/11/picture-lock-radio-ep-26-alexandria-film-festival-the-killing-season-the-eagle-huntress

 

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.

Middleburg Film Fest '15: "Hitchcock/Truffaut" Review

Alfred Hitchcock is a legend in film, but he didn’t start out that way. In fact, not all of his “classic” films that we think of today were box office hits. It was after French director, Francois Truffaut penned the book Hitchcock/Truffaut that his work as an auteur was appreciated on a deeper level. Unfortunately, the film “Hitchcock/Truffaut” doesn’t do much to expand what fans already know from the book.

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Part of the issue with the film is that it’s more of a gushing text message than a love letter to the book/meeting of Hitchcock and Truffaut. Director Kent Jones interviews numerous directors (Martin Scorcese, David Fincher, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, and more) to have them weigh in on Hitchcock’s work as highlighted in the book. In short, it’s a fanboy geek out session which is great for the fan, members of the film community, or newcomers to Hitchcock’s work.

Some of the nice touches of the film come in seeing the photos from Hitchcock and Truffaut’s meeting, hearing some of the audio recording of the interviews, and the way Jones brings them together with footage from the films. It’s as though Hitchcock and Truffaut become one of the talking heads commenting on the film’s footage we’re seeing within the documentary. The voices of the past become voices of the present under Rachel Reichman’s editing.

“Hitchcock/Truffaut” is a must see for any cinemaphile, filmmaker, and Hitchcock fan. If you’re looking for a serious education on the book, their meeting, and their work, the film leaves much to be desired. A love letter would have been nice, but I guess these days a quick text will have to suffice!

Grade: B-

Comment

Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.