On Christmas day, after the unwrapping of gifts and the eating of these orange-scented buns, I found myself restless. Normally I wouldn’t think of a movie, but in Arizona, Christmas has a decidedly sunny disposition, and I was looking for something cozy. I also didn’t want to go out and kick the soccer ball with my son, full as I was with those buns. So, I loaded everyone up and said, “We’re going to a movie.”
You can imagine the response. The kids wanted to know, “Which movie?!?!”
My husband wanted to know, “Why?”
I said nothing; somehow they all acquiesced and got into the car. Thirty minutes later, we sat in a darkened theater, nobody even bothering with popcorn. The kids were silent in that way kids get when they think they’re parent has gone a little bonkers. My husband looked afraid. I think he feared I was taking them all to an ‘art film.’
Two hours later, we all emerged a little brighter and better, having seen a beautifully shot documentary entitled The Eagle Huntress. Have you heard of it? It wasn’t until I blindly perused the ‘artsy’ theater in town that I knew it existed, but after reading the description and realizing it was basically G-rated, I couldn’t get to the theater fast enough. There aren’t many movies I can take my kids to see that I also want to see. I know many moms who love animated musicals with occasional body-function jokes; I am not one of them.
What I realized, however, is that documentaries are often the perfect bridge between kid-interest-fascination and adult-interest-fascination. We often, at home, watch nature documentaries with the kids. We also watch America’s Funniest Home Videos and The Voice, so don’t let me paint a picture of bohemian intellectuals basking in heavy culture. But documentaries, particularly about nature, are clean enough for family time and interesting enough to hold everyone's attention.
The Eagle Huntress was like a nature documentary with a human note that not only touched me (I cried) but also delivered a decidedly inspiring and uplifting message. It’s about a young Mongolian girl whose father (and generations before him) is an eagle hunter. The girl wants to follow in her family’s footsteps, but the community around her is hesitant at times and often downright dismissive of her ability to participate in a man’s world. I won’t give it away or spend too long on lengthy descriptions, but the movie explores the girl’s desire, her father’s willingness to buck the proverbial system and support her, the hard work involved in her chosen profession and the response within the community when she actually follows through on her wish. I felt very happy sitting beside my kids, watching this girl not just identify a goal but go after it with the hard work and devotion necessary to achieve anything of merit. I loved watching her father face gender bias right alongside his daughter and how he encouraged her and loved her so sweetly and simply through it all.
I loved the movie for many reasons. The scenery and cinematography are breathtaking. I mean that. I don’t like over-use of adjectives like breathtaking, but I once caught myself not breathing during the film, so I feel it’s an accurate description of just how beautiful that landscape is and the power of having it caught on film. It made me want to forget orange-scented buns and ride a horse across the snowy Mongolian plain.
I loved the message of female empowerment, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge that so much of that message had to do with the girl’s father and his support of her, even in the face of community backlash. I love showing my kids examples of women pursuing passions, even when those passions aren’t social norms, and I love showing them the strong and loving men so often alongside those women.
I loved the movie for the scenes about the daily life of Mongolian nomads, for the wind-burnt cheeks of the girls at their boarding school and for on-point editing of so many important conversations around the issue of whether or not a girl can hunt with an eagle on her arm.
I loved this girl, and I loved her father and her mother and her land and her red cheeks and her heart.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie a score of 93%, IMDb 7.6/10 and Google users rated it an 85%.
Let me know if you see it. I’d love to hear thoughts!