Birth of a Nation
by Daya Cahen
video, 12 min, 2010
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The video Birth of a Nation portrays Cadet School Number 9, a unique military academy in Mosow, where girls age 11-17 learn how to become the ideal Russian patriot and the ideal Russian woman. Here the girls learn how to sew, march, cook, sing, shoot, how to use make up and how to prepare for military action. Even more than being trained as a good patriot, the aim is to become an ideal woman. Through six separate images the maker decomposes the various ‘characters’ from which this ideal woman made up.
Nobody is interviewed, but by placing as many as six different images on the screen at the same time, the footage reveals various aspects of their personalities while simultaneously posing the question of how all those aspects can be seen independently of one another. While they sing the praises of the great Russian nation, we cannot help but notice the contrast between military indoctrination and youthful innocence. Does patriotism require us to renounce any form of independent thought and action? Do these girls really know what they are doing, and is that even possible at their age? It also holds a mirror up to contemporary Russia, in which the army offers a sense of connection with the myth of a heroic past.