It is a great honor for me to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's International Film & Television Showcase, it only saddens me that my husband, Tony Blanco, cannot be with me to share this moment, as he would be as honored and proud as I am.
I congratulate you on the beautiful initiative to support and celebrate the dedication, passion and integrity of women in film everywhere, and I thank TheWIFTS Board for considering me worthy of this precious award. I am very sorry to be unable to receive it in person. Thank you!
THE WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL
FILM & TELEVISION SHOWCASE
DECEMBER 10TH 2017
Passion & Integrity
Commerce & Creativity
Equality Not Hierarchy
Aisholpan Nurgaiv is the recipient of TheWIFTS “IT” Award 2017.
Aisholpan is the first female in seven generations of the family to be an eagle hunter.Amongst her nomadic Kazakh community, the tradition of capturing and training young golden eagles to hunt foxes and rabbits is passed down from father to son. Encouraged by her father, Aisholpan overcomes the obstacles of the male tradition and wins the coveted Golden Eagle Competition. Her ambition is to become a doctor and the $3,000 prize money won at the Hamptons International Film Festival for Best Documentary has gone into an educational trust set up for her.
The Eagle Huntress is the inspiring story of a 13 year old Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a Kazakh girl from Mongolia and her quest to be and become an Eagle Hunter carrying on a legacy that has defined the region for centuries. The Kazakh people of the Altai region in western Mongolia have practiced a tradition of hunting with golden eagles, whose wingspan can reach up to 7.5 feet wide, for over for 2,000 years. Aisholpan is the first Mongolian woman to compete in the Mongolia Golden Eagle Festival, which was established in 1999 to keep alive the tradition and culture of protecting the golden eagles.
Though this practice has traditionally been the domain of men, Aisholpan Nurgaiv decides that she wants to become an apprentice hunter after spending her childhood helping her father, a renowned eagle hunter, care for his birds. Under the tutelage and support of her father and her grandfather—and very few others—Aisholpan learns all aspects of falconry, from taming her very own eagle to training for an annual competition, where she will compete against 70 eagle hunters on her quest to gain acceptance. After the competition, she takes the final step toward becoming an eagle hunter by traveling with her father to the mountains in the winter to hunt foxes, braving snowy conditions and extreme cold. After some initial misses, her eagle successfully kills its first fox and she returns home.
Aisholpan Nurgaiv, Eagle Hunter in the film The Eagle Huntress
Featuring breathtaking cinematography and intimate footage, the film not only explores the life of a young girl striving to pursue her passion and break down gender barriers in a very traditional culture, but also provides an engaging glimpse into the lives of this remote community, as they balance their traditional lifestyle with the modern world.
The Eagle Huntress feature documentary directed by Otto Bell came into being when images of Aisholpan Nurgaiv by Israeli photographer Asher Svidensky went viral in 2014. Bell, a documentary filmmaker, fell in love with Aisholpan's story after seeing a photo essay online in April 2014, and he and his crew followed her remarkable coming-of-age story and triumph at the Golden Eagle Festival.
The film is executive-produced and narrated by Star Wars star Daisy Ridley, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016, and was released in the US by Sony Pictures Classics. The film was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and nominated for a BAFTA Award Best Documentary.
The Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Ulgii Province takes place in the Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia. Each year Kazakh hunters from near and far attend the festival with their Golden Eagles, known as Berkut, to enter them into competitions testing speed, agility, and accuracy. Ceremonies, dance performances, a parade in the provincial capital’s city square, and a Kazakh play are held in honor of the hunters and their eagles.
The Golden Eagle Festival -promoted by Normadic Expeditions
Image courtesy normadicexpeditions.com
The annual Mongolian festival, which celebrates the golden eagle as well as the hunters’ traditional culture, is arranged by the local Kazakh community and members of the Berkut Association, a community-based conservation organization. Historically, nomadic Kazakhs have depended on golden eagles for hunting; both the Berkut Association and the Golden Eagle Festival were established by Nomadic Expeditions’ Founder and CEO Jalsa Urubshurow in 1999 to preserve this proud tradition and protect the golden eagle. All proceeds from the festival’s ticket sales ($30 per person for two days of competitions) benefits the Berkut Association, which uses these funds to further the organization’s goals, including arranging the annual festival. The expedition into the rugged Altai Mountains also includes opportunities to visit a local mosque, town market, provincial museum, and archaeological site.
Compiled and edited from sources courtesy of and including: Sundance Film Festival, nomadicexpeditions.com, and nationalgeographic.com