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:: System Of A Down - Screamers

The title of director Carla Garapedian's documentary, “Screamers,” refers to a resolute determination to bring genocide to light. The film follows Armenian American alt-metal band System of a Down and others as they educate people about the 1915-18 Armenian killings in Turkey, in which an estimated 1.2 million people died.

The fact that the band took this course of action may lie in the fact that today's children no longer learn history, and, more troubling still, far too many countries are content to follow Turkey's example and turn an official blind eye to inconvenient facts.

Luckily, System Of A Down tell their fans about what happened to their families in that now-forgotten time, a deeply personal mission that has proved effective in politicising their audiences. Filmmaker Carla Garapedian's rousing concert film follows the band on a series of dates, between which soft-spoken front man Serj Tankian and drummer John Dolmayan talk about their relationship to their collective past.

“Screamers” springs off the multi-platinum, Grammy-winning band's most recent tour. There's plenty of concert footage. But there's also testimony by authors, politicians and a former FBI interpreter. In between gigs they try to mobilise public opinion and meet with politicians. In fact, one of the film's highlights is when singer Serj Tankian politely collars then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is responsible for blocking the passage of a resolution recognising the killings as genocide. When Hastert discovers the band is more than just a bunch of long-haired noisemakers, he makes a speedy exit.

What will remain in my mind is the film's tales of cruelty, told on a personal scale (one eyewitness is Tankian's grandfather). Garapedian shows disturbing visual evidence of genocides from 1915 to the current slaughters in Darfur. The piece is very intelligently made, although the director often doesn't establish place or time. Garapedian's film argues that unless genocide is labelled as such, repressive governments will feel that they can avoid international condemnation for such acts, thus increasing the chances of more genocide. What happened about twenty years after the Armenian devastation?

When recounting 20th century history, it is rarely mentioned of the extermination of the Armenians. This documentary does and, despite any flaws, the eye-opening theme alone makes it worth seeing.

DVD Extras

Going backstage
Bonus song: Question!
Press conference
5.1 sound