“This was the ultimate documentary challenge,” admits “The Eagle Huntress” director Otto Bell as we chat via webcam (watch above). “I was using my own money, I was working under ferocious conditions, and I had this wonderful story fall into my lap. For me, it all felt very pure, and I felt very lucky.” Set in a remote Mongolian village, this Sony Pictures Classics release follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old nomadic girl who trains to become the first female eagle huntress from her family in twelve generations, defying centuries of tradition and expectation.
Bell makes his feature film debut after years of directing commercials and short-form docs in locals such as Uganda, Peru and Siberia. Regarding those early low-budget ventures, he recalls, “I’d always been figuring out how to use a little bit of money and make it feel very cinematic.” It’s a lesson that served him well on this ambitious first outing, especially considering the budget was his life’s savings. “We didn’t have much money,” he admits, “but we did want to do justice to this landscape.”
“The Eagle Huntress” features narration by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” star Daisy Ridley, who also serves as an executive producer. “It was clear she was incredibly moved by what she’d seen,” says Bell, who first spoke with the actress in advance of their Sundance premiere. The five minutes of voice-over she provides, “help a younger audience track along with the action.”
Ultimately, Bell hopes the film will have a broad appeal to children because, “the more girls that see this film, the better off we’ll be.” He adds, “with all this poisonous kind of locker room talk that is going around right now, I’m very glad that this film is coming out now, with the message that it has for young girls to do whatever they want to do.”
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