2017-02-09 / Life in Leelanau

County woman has ties to Bay Film Series documentary

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

KARA BUNBURY, right, gets an up-close look at an eagle similar to that which is used to hunt in Mongolia as featured in the movie ‘The Eagle Huntress.’KARA BUNBURY, right, gets an up-close look at an eagle similar to that which is used to hunt in Mongolia as featured in the movie ‘The Eagle Huntress.’
A Leland woman has a special connection to a film showing next week at the Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay.

Kara Bunbury and family members will be going to “The Eagle Huntress,” a documentary, which is part of the Bay Film Series.

The movie tells the story of a 13-yearold Mongolian girl and her quest to become the first female in her family — going back 12 generations — to become an eagle hunter.

Bunbury met the girl and her family last year while working with the Sundance Film Festival. The film debuted at Sundance and was picked up by Sony for distribution.

“I worked as a film office coordinator which meant that I was responsible for their lodging, lining up a translator, and making arrangements with a bird sanctuary to get them to all the screenings,” the 2008 Leland graduate said.

THIS POSTER advertises ‘The Eagle Huntress’ a documentary film showing Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at The Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay. THIS POSTER advertises ‘The Eagle Huntress’ a documentary film showing Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at The Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay. The film tells the story of Aisholpan, a young girl who wants to follow in the footsteps of her father, a master eagle hunter.

Hunting on horseback with eagles has always been practiced by the nomadic people of Mongolia. The ancient methods of eagle hunters vary greatly, as each family has techniques and secrets handed down over generations — from father to son.

However, the young girl wanted to set her own course and with the support of her father, Nurgaiv, was able to make her mark by winning a prestigious eagle-hunters’ competition held annually in the town of Ulgii, in northwestern Mongolia.

“It’s about the girl carving out a new way in the country,” Bunbury said.

Golden eagles weigh up to 15 pounds, average about 3 feet tall and have wingspans of more than 6 feet.

They kill their prey using razor-sharp talons, powerful enough to break bones.

Filmmaker Otto Bell caught wind of the girl’s accomplishment and traveled immediately to Mongolia to learn more.

“He got on an airplane the second he heard about it and beat National Geographic by one day,” Bunbury said.

To prepare for the Mongol family visit Bunbury, a graduate of Northern Michigan University (NMU), watched a preliminary version of the film.

“I was privileged to see a rough-cut a couple of weeks before, so I was familiar with the story and the family,” she said.

The family, including mother, father and the star of the show, were at the debut and related activities at the festival, held at this time last year in Park City, Utah.

Lodging was provided by a wealthy Utah family who offered to host the family, which at times was overwhelmed by the experience.

“They knew practically no English and this was a completely foreign experience for them,” Bunbury said. “They went through the gauntlet with press tours … It was overwhelming for them.”

The film, distributed worldwide, gave Bunbury an up-close look at the nomadic people and their lifestyle in the mountains and rolling plateaus of Mongolia.

And as much fun as it was for her last year working at the film festival, Bunbury decided she was ready for a more permanent job. The film festival position ran from November through March.

Bunbury came home to Leelanau County and is applying the business degree she earned at NMU to her family environmental insurance business, Environmental Risk Managers, based in Suttons Bay.

She works with her father, Chris Bunbury and brother, Brooks. They, along with mother, Kim, will be seeing the film together at the Bay Theatre.

Showtimes are Sunday at 2 and 5 p.m. and Monday and Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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