Let's face it. Hunters are a minority group and a target for animal rights groups who use electronic media to attack hunting. One of the best ways for hunters to defend themselves and show mainstream America what hunting is all about is through films and TV that's favorable to hunting.
Earlier this year, a film from New Zealand featuring hunters as heroes, "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," came out of nowhere to gross over $5 million at the US box office and over $22 million world-wide, http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Hunt-for-the-Wilderpeople/New-Zealand as well as winning acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.
As the year ends, there's another film that shows hunters as heroes that's getting rave reviews in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR and Variety. "The Eagle Huntress", http://sonyclassics.com/theeaglehuntress/ an 87-minute feature-length documentary from SONY Pictures set in Mongolia, follows a 13-year-old Mongolian girl, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, as she trains to become the first female in twelve generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter.
Shot with beautiful cinematography, "The Eagle Huntress" features a 12-minute sequence when Aisholpan and her father must climb a steep cliff to take a young eagle from his nest just before its ready to fly. It then follows her training the eagle and competing in a local festival. Realize that Golden eagles weigh up to 15 pounds, stand three feet high and have a wingspan 6 feet. The eagle is more than half as tall as the girl.
After Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan became non-Communist in 1990's, they sought to revive their traditions. Aisholpan's father, from the very beginning is supportive of her, but other eagle hunters in this community don't believe that a girl can do it. The annual Eagle Festival is held in Olgii every year since 1999. Aisholpan and her eagle not only competed, they won. This film is a rite of passage story that will inspire the whole family.
"The Eagle Huntress" is directed by Otto Bell, who gets some help from Executive Producer and Narrator actress Daisy Ridley, one of the stars of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens;" and from Morgan Spurlock, known for his OSCAR-nominated 2004 documentary "Super Size Me", who in 2011 also produced a TV series "I, Caveman" about a group of modern people forced to live in the wild with stone age technology who survived by killing an elk with spears.
Already nominated for many awards, trade magazine Variety http://variety.com/2016/film/news/eagle-huntress-daisy-ridley-sundance-sony-classics-1201693693/ suggests "The Eagle Huntress" could be a contender for an Oscar. The film is being screened in a limited number of theaters and has already grossed about a million dollars. It will be available on Netflix in February.
"The Eagle Huntress" joins two other outstanding American films about falconry, with Americans traveling to Mongolia to learn ancient ways of hunting with eagles.
FALCONER: THE SPORT OF KINGS by Eddie Brochin
Between 1983 and 2003, Indianapolis filmmaker Eddie Brochin, a 5th degree black belt in taekwondo, fought 500 matches all around the world, winning all but 37 and never being knocked out. A seven-time Indiana state bantam-weight champion, Eddie was the North American champion in 1999. An extraordinary athlete, he earned the nickname "The Bird" during his competition years, as he could leap over an automobile and break a board with his feet as he lands.
Guide for hundreds of hunting and fishing expeditions, and host of "Ultimate Outdoors TV", Brochin has been a falconer for 12 years.
Eddie dreamed for years of filming hunters whose descendants invented hunting with falcons and eagles. Everything came together for him in March 2011, when he flew to Genghis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; took another hour-plus trip on a prop plane that landed on a bumpy dirt airstrip in the Bayan Olgii Province near the Mongolian border; and then took a 3-1/2-hour car ride and a 3-1/2-hour horse ride to reach the tiny village of the eagle masters. For more than a month, Brochin lived with his Mongolian hosts, along with two translators (one Mongolian and one Kazak), and three cameramen, using solar power for the cameras.
Most of his hosts had never seen a car, live without electricity, and encounter few—if any—foreigners. The weather in that mountainous desert region, temperatures exceed 85 degrees during the day and plunge below 25 at night. With no electricity and only small, temporary structures for shelter, staying warm after sunset is tough. Since there are so few trees, animal manure fuels fire in the round, portable yurts. The toughest day came midway through the trip. Five tornadic dust storms hit the crew's camp in a single day.
His resulting documentary, the 70-minute "The Falconer, Sport of Kings," http://www.falconersportofkings.com/ about his training in flying eagles, took two years to complete the film. (Okay, I confess that I co-wrote the film with Eddie and my son designed his website.)
The movie debuted at the Keystone Art Cinema on June 26, May 2913, to "a packed house," Brochin said. Since that opening, the film has been shown in a number of film festivals all over the world, including: "Winner" – Best Overall – Skyfest Film and Script Competition – 2013; "Winner" INDIE Film and Script Competition – 2013; "Winner" Accolade Film and Script Competition – 2013 and "Viewer Impact" Award; • "Best Director of a Feature Documentary" – Madrid International Film Festival – 2014; • "Best Producer" of a Feature Documentary – London; International Festival of World Cinema – 2015; • "Official Selection" St. Tropez International Film Festival 2015; and "Best Cinematography" in a Feature Documentary" Italy International Film Festival – 2015.
Eddie says, "Sony Pictures approached me about the film. The Director was split between a movie and a reality series and we ended up working all summer on a reality series that never got sold." In reflection Eddie says, "I'm happier with the way things turned out because as a result of a major festival win at the Madrid International Film Festival in 2014, I became a Knight of the Portuguese Royal House and since have also became a Knight in Spain."
"Falconer" is currently being distributed all over North America, Europe and the Middle East. DVD's are available on line at all major retailers such as Target, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, FYE, Family Video, Best Buy and many more (Amazon Prime, Roku, Hoopla etc.)
KIRAN OVER MONGOLIA
The link between a hunter and his dog is a wonderful act of interspecies cooperation. But every time that a falconer releases their bird into the air, that bird makes a choice to come back. That the raptors do return, as well as hunt with humans, is an act of pure interspecies magic. That natural magic you see vividly in the beautiful video documentary "Kiran Over Mongolia," (2005) www.kiranovermongolia.com directed by Joseph Spaid, who was the first American to travel to Mongolia to film hunting with eagles, resulting in the first western feature film about Mongolian eagle hunters which set the standard for storytelling about them.
"Kiran" is the Mongolian word for "golden," which is used to describe the quality of especially strong spirit in a golden eagle – large, fierce red eyes, large sharp beak and long, strong talons.
Described by Daily Variety as "An engrossing walk through nature and an ancient culture," " Kiran" has won awards from many film festivals. According to Spaid, "Kiran Over Mongolia" is the story of "Kuma, a young Kazak man, who retraces the steps of his grandfather who was formerly an eagle master back to the remote mountainous region of his family's origin. There, in nomadic Mongolia, he fulfills his dream of trapping and training his own eagle. Under the tutelage of a local eagle master named Khairatkhan, Kuma learns not only the ways of hunting with eagles, but also the ways of his own people. Set against the staggering and exotic beauty of Mongolia, KIRAN immerses the viewer in a world forgotten by time."
The interwoven storylines of the Kazak boy learning the ancient art of eagle hunting, while trying to figure out what to do with modern culture, and his co-star, the Kiran eagle, learning interspecies cooperation, are beautifully-blended together into a spell of enchantment that is mesmerizing on the screen, thanks to some gorgeous videography, as well as authentic Mongolian music and singing. You can purchase copies at http://www.kiranovermongolia.com/Pages/buyDVD.html
Although humans have practiced falconry for thousands of years, it's never really caught on big time in the US. Estimates put the number of active falconers in this country somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 (up from maybe 1,500 in the mid-20th century).
In the US, hawks, owls and falcons are legal for hunting in all states except Hawaii and the District of Columbia, providing you have state permits. To get a permit you must pass a written exam, have the facilities for keeping the birds inspected, and serve a two-year apprenticeship with a licensed Master Falconer. Becoming a Master Falconer takes seven years.
It takes a lot of work by both human and bird, to become a successful falconer. Viewing these films makes it hard not to want to see if you have a falconer in you.
-James A. Swan, PhD.