CHECHNYA: The way Daymohk opens, one might think it‘s going to be a film that uncritically praises traditional Chechen folk culture and the Head of the Chechen Republic. But the film becomes more interesting once you get past the opening.
JoAnne Velin
Jo-Anne Velin is a Canadian journalist & film director living in Europe, creating long-form documentary films with a very special focus on authentic sound.
Published date: April 1, 2019

Daymohk, The Ancestral Land

Masha Novikova

Netherlands

The Chechen folk-dance troupe «Daymohk», ostensibly the principal subject of this documentary that bears the same name, was founded in 1999 by choreographer Ramzan Achmadov, to give Chechen traditional culture a chance to regenerate in the midst of war. At the time, the capital Grozny was a shelled-out wreck, and the troupe performed all over Europe.

Daymohk is now sponsored by the Chechen state («No nation without culture», the first President of the Chechen Republic once said) and the group’s founder wants to have a dance clip made to show Europe, with which the troupe has lost contact, that they are still vibrant. He explains how dance is an essential expression of Chechen identity.

Daymohk, The Ancestral Land. Director: Masha Novikova

Daymohk means the Motherland to Chechens, and it evokes a long history of wars to defend it. Here, it is also the name of a large dance troupe of young Chechen youth – boys and girls – who train hard meet the founder’s high expectations.

War(s) from two perspectives

The way Daymohk opens, one might think this is going to be a film that uncritically praises traditional Chechen folk culture and the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov. The latter is there to keep the Russia Federation’s southern border intact and Chechnya within it, using his version of conservative Islam and macho, cultural politics to hold on tight.

I don’t know the director Masha Novikova’s earlier films first-hand, but she has lots of experience with people in the margins of war, and she has also made a film about Anna Politkovskaya – the Russian journalist who was murdered in 2006, and so, all sorts of things went through my mind in the first part of the film. Are we really going to spend 90 minutes watching how a folk-dance troupe makes a video-clip? Or listen to endless praise for Ramzan Kadyrov?


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