Photo Albums

Aksu-Ayuly, Kazakhstan

In search of Makpal Abdrazakova, the world-famous eagle huntress.

Taraz, Kazakhstan

Bakyt Karnakbaev shows off his falconry furniture.

Nura, Kazakhstan

Visiting Kazakhstan's first and only falconry museum.

Bayan Olgii, Mongolia

The Kazakhs of the Altai Mountains show why they're the most famous eagle falconers in the world.

Jergatol, Tajikistan

The Kyrgyz falconers of Tajikistan have disappeared, but their memory remains.

Grigorievka, Kyrgyzstan

Fox hunting in a lakeside gorge.

Southern Kyrgyzstan

They said falconry in the south was dead. They were wrong.

Kadji-Sai, Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz falconers find an aerie and an eaglet.

Tuura Suu, Kyrgyzstan

Filmmakers shoot a falconry documentary in the mountains above Lake Issyk Kul.

Bokonbaevo, Kyrgyzstan

Hunting with an eagle in the Tien Shan, catching only a housecat.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

At the central racetrack in Kyrgyzstan's largest city, falconers fly their eagles from cherrypickers.

Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan

Falconers and taigan breeders gather at Rukh Ordo, a Kyrgyz cultural shrine.

Tyup, Kyrgyzstan

On the north shore of Lake Issyk Kul, locals congregate to celebrate the national hunt.

Talas, Kyrgyzstan

A falconry festival in the proud western region of the country.

Bokonbaevo, Kyrgyzstan

The eagle falconry capital of Kyrgyzstan puts on a two day hunting spectacle.

Ak Sai Sovkhoz, Kyrgyzstan

Our first visit to Sary Satylganov, the esteemed elder of Kyrgyz falconry.

Ak Sai Sovhkoz, Kyrgyzstan

Sary-Ata invites us back for a second round of interviews and documentation.

Ak Sai Sovkhoz, Kyrgyzstan

For his 83rd birthday, the heavens brought Sary-Ata a beautiful goshawk.

Bokonbaevo and Ak Sai Sovkhoz, Kyrgyzstan

Ruslan Kubat Uuly catches a raven, and a friendly visit to Sary-Ata.

Videos

The Eagle Hunter

Original Title: Беркутчи

A Soviet documentary on falconry in Kyrgyzstan. Directed by Sagynbek Ishenov in 1990 for the studio Kyrgyzfilm. Ishenov also made a companion film, “The Falconer”, about a Russian hunter from Kyrgyzstan. “The Eagle Hunter”, or “Berkutchi”, focuses mostly on the methods of the sayatchi, Kyrgyz specialists in capturing birds of prey.

The Falconer

Original Title: Сокольник

A documentary on falconry in Kyrgyzstan, directed by Sagynbek Ishenov in 1992 for the studio Kyrgyzfilm. The film opens with Chalagyz Imankulov, a famous akyn, or improvisational poet, and player of the komuz, a three-stringed Kyrgyz lute. Like many Kyrgyz intellectuals, Imankulov was also an experienced falconer. Most of the documentary, however, follows Gennady Arkadevich Demenchuk, the director of the Issyk Kul State Game Reserve and the man behind Semiz-Bel, which was Kyrgyzstan’s first and only raptor breeding center.

Falconry

Original Title: Соколиная Охота

A Soviet documentary film on traditional falconry in Turkmenistan, Abkhazia and Abjaria. Directed by Yuri Klimov in 1988 for Lennauchfilm, a studio making educational films. The consultant for the film was Vladimir Yevgenevich Flint, who wrote a well-known book on falconry, “Falcon on Glove” (Сокол на перчатке – Sokol na perchatke).

The Manaschi

Original Title: Манасчи

A Soviet documentary on Sayakbay Karalaev, a Kyrgyz epic storyteller, or Manaschi, who also practiced eagle hunting. Directed by Bolotbek Shamshiev for the Kyrgyzfilm studio in 1965. A segment that runs from 16:05 to 18:34 shows Karalaev hunting with his eagle near Lake Issyk Kul.

Hassan Bai'ake

This is a real treasure, a half-hour documentary made about Kyrgyz falconers by a French team in the 90s, for a series called “The Master of the Spirits.” The film follows the eagle hunter Hassan Kaliev as he trains his eagle and teaches his young grandson Azat (who gets his own short film). It’s a bit sloppy in places (they decided to call my teacher Sary Satylganov “Saru,” and the title itself is an odd misunderstanding of the word “baike”, or “uncle”) but overall it’s some priceless footage.

Azat

This little piece mostly borrows footage from its companion film, Hassan Bai’ake, but it’s got enough extra to make it worth watching. The story follows a young boy named Azat Toktomuratov as he learns the art of falconry from his grandfather.

Salburun - A Kyrgyz National Sport

Original Title: Кыргыз улуттук спорт - Салбуурун

I was in Kyrgyzstan when Almaz Akunov was shooting this short documentary about local hunting practices, something he views as part of a “complex” called “Salburun”, hunting with dogs, birds of prey, and bow and arrow, all rolled up into one. The video came out pretty nice, and he found somebody to do an English narration, making it the only video on Kyrgyz falconry, made by Kyrgyz people themselves, that is accessible to most of the world.

Hunting With Golden Eagles In Kazakhstan

RFE/RL Kazakhstan has put out a 1:15 video report on the Sonar 2013 hunting festival, sticking mostly to the tired narrative of an “ancient sport” newly revived. Notice that they show two clips of an eagle catching a released fox; the second clip seems to show that the fox has developed a limp. I’m afraid the festival organizers are using the same fox in repeated events, even though it’s been mauled up a bit. Do note, though, how tenderly the hunter wipes the blood off his eagle’s feet with snow at the end.

Kiran Over Mongolia

This here is just the trailer, but you should really check out Joseph Spaid’s full length documentary about Kazakh bürkitshis in Mongolia. One of only two-full length films about Central Asian falconry that we know of (the other is the German film Die Stimme Des Adlers), Kiran Over Mongolia is a well-shot piece with a ton of good ethnographic information.