EXCLUSIVE: In the final feather in the cap of a memorable dealmaking Sundance Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics acquired North American rights to The Eagle Huntress, in a mid-seven-figure deal that includes select international territories including Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Germany, Scandinavia and Asia. SPC will plot a significant theatrical release for one of the best reviewed docus of 2016 Sundance, and this is just the first step for a film whose themes of female empowerment will allow it to travel far.
I’m told that Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley will narrate the documentary, this coming days after she signed on to be executive producer to use her clout to help boost the film. At the same time, several companies are negotiating for the right to turn the story of 13-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv and her eagle into an animated feature, and Ridley will provide the voice for the young heroine. CAA brokered the deal for the docu, and will make the deal for the animated feature.
This caps a storybook festival finish for the first documentary to premiere in the Sundance Kids section when it debuted January 24 at the Prospector Square Park Theatre. What director Otto Bell captured on screen is unprecedented, and the film will be a buzz title come the next awards season. The deal means that SPC’s Michael Barker and Tom Bernard walked off the mountain with four films, including the Frank Zappa docu Eat That Question, the Wall Street drama Equity, and the John Krasinski-directed The Hollars.
The Eagle Huntress is the true story of Aisholpan, a Mongolian girl who strives to become the first female Eagle Hunter in 2,000 years of male-dominated history. Under the tutelage and support of her father and her grandfather, she learns all aspects of this ancient tradition. That included her being dropped by rope into the nest of an eagle, where she captured a baby from a nest, taming and raising that eaglet and training it for the annual Golden Eagle Festival, which involves competing against male Eagle Hunters from all over the country.
The film is set in the Altai Mountains of Northwestern Mongolia, the most remote part of the least populated country on Earth. While the landscape is pristine, the isolation has created a society that always considered women too fragile to hunt with an eagle. Aisholpan set out to change that. The young eagle hunter and her family made the trip to Sundance, where she demonstrated her prowess with the eagle she raised, in a demonstration that packed Main Street. It was the first trip to America for her family, which accompanied Aisholpan to Abu Dhabi after she won the title.