On The Avenue

Girl Power: The Eagle Huntress Climbs Every Mountain

by Kristopher Fraser Photographed by Daisy Ridley, Otto Bell== Sony Pictures Classics and The Cinema Society Host the After Party for "The Eagle Huntress"== Jimmy at the James Hotel, NYC== October 20, 2016== ©Patrick McMullan== Photo - Paul Bruinooge/PMC== ==
Friday, October 21, 2016

A black cadillac drove up to 143 East Houston. Stepping out in her little black dress was the beautiful and talented Daisy Ridley, the star of Star Wars: Episode VIII, and the narrator of a little documentary titled The Eagle Huntress, directed by Otto Bell.

The crowd went wild for her, a barricade of paparazzi were snapping her photos and begging them to sign their pictures, and after a few moments of soaking up the spotlight, she was ushered inside. There was the usual guest check in for those lucky enough to be invited to the movie, and upstairs there were tables of popcorn for guests to snack on as they sat down in the movie theater. The chairs were as comfortable as a new mattress, but if for a moment there was even the mere thought of sleep, it was erased by what went up on the screen.

The film opened by depicting an eagle hunter, and no, these aren’t people who hunt eagles, but, rather, people who train eagles for hunting in winter. Hunting with eagles is a traditional form of falconry that dates through ancient times, and is still major in parts of Asia, especially Mongolia where the film is set.

Viewers are then introduced to the young and strong Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year-old girl who comes from a long line of eagle hunters, and has strong aspirations to be one herself. We immediately see the strong relationship she shares with her father, Rys Nurgaiv, who pushes his daughter with both austerity and affection to become the best eagle huntress she can be.

In one of the greatest moments in history for women’s issues, in between the continuous fight for women’s rights and a major political party having it’s first female presidential candidate, this film couldn’t have had more perfect timing. As a young girl practicing something that has long been considered only for men, the audience watches as Aisholplan must overcome sexism to break through the glass ceiling to become the first female eagle huntress in the history of the practice.

From the beginning, we see how her mother has comfortably come to terms with her father having a stronger relationship with because of the time she spends with him training to be an eagle huntress. Through it all, Aisholpan’s father does acknowledge that she will face challenges and will have to work twice as hard because she is a girl, but never for one second does he discourage her, and he pushes very hard because he knows that she has to prove herself in the face of men who don’t believe that she should be doing this.

One of the most moving scenes in the movie is after she has won an eagle hunter competition and she is gathered at the lunch table where she is the only girl, and the only other women seen are the ones making the lunch. Several of them are made clearly uncomfortable by her presence implying a woman’s place is in the home. Later on, a group of elder eagle hunters is shown clearly dismayed that she won the competition, but say that she still hasn’t proved herself until she goes eagle hunting in the dead of winter.

Cut to Aisholpan and her father in the deep mountains of Mongolia attempting to hunt foxes in winter. While it would be improper to give away the ending, Aisholpan does prove herself in the face of adversity, and becomes an inspiration to young girls everywhere. So much so, that there are now more girls taking up eagle hunting in Mongolia.

As guests exited the movie theatre, there was the star of the film with her father standing humbly and warmly taking photos and greeting everyone. There were a few teary eyes in the room as they gazed upon the young girl who is so humble, but is literally history making.

Afterwards, guests got requested their Ubers to attend the after party at Jimmy at the James in SoHo. The open bar was fully stocked, as guests sipped champagne and liquor on the rooftop overlooking the beautiful Manhattan skyline. As it was tips only, the bare was laden with crumpled bills, one had to wonder if this was a bar or a gentleman’s club? Although, a place of that caliber is of the utmost sophistication.

Aisholpan, Rys and Ridley all stood with the cameras flashing as the crowd took in the presence of two women who have become symbols of girl power this year. We all know we lived for Ridley’s performance in Star Wars as Rey. Keep on ruling the world girls.

Visit the Eagle Huntress’s website at http://sonyclassics.com/theeaglehuntress/.


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