Written by Fantasma el Rey
Screamers are those who stand up and alert others to what is going on around them, they are the one’s that shout “there is something wrong and we have to act.” Carla Garapedian does exactly that with her documentary Screamers about genocide in the last hundred years. Garapedian’s film follows rock band System Of A Down as they tour and raise awareness regarding the first genocide of the twentieth century. The horrors that the Armenians faced at the hands of the Ottoman Empire deeply concerns the band and their own families. The band and the film scream for justice not just for the crimes against their people but for all those that fall victim to such unbelievable acts, from Rwanda to Kosovo and from the Armenians to the many Jewish that suffered the same fate.
System Of A Down has talked and sung about the Armenian tragedy since their beginning, bringing it out in their distinct sound. They draw inspiration from their culture and heritage; it’s evident in guitarist Daron Malakian’s playing style and Serj Tankian’s colorful vocals, also emerging in the way the guys put songs together and what they have to say. System’s music, which includes the songs “Spiders,” “P.L.U.C.K.,” and “Cigaro,” appear throughout the movie and we get to see some good performances as well.
Although the film spotlights System Of A Down, it goes beyond them and their music to tell the horrific tales of torture that people around the world have had to face and were fortunate enough to live through. Because bigger than the music are the personal stories, we hear Serj’s grandfather tell his story of extreme hardship as he and his family where driven from their Anatolian homeland. Serj and drummer John Dolmayan are also shown at rallies for the Armenian genocide. and caught on film is Serj’s brief meeting with house speaker Dennis Hastert, who pretty much gives Serj the brush off. As always, Serj keeps his cool and shows just how much of a class act he truly is.
Firsthand accounts fill this movie, making the tales hit even harder as we can see the look of pain in these people’s faces. Not simply focusing on Armenians, Garapedian finds screamers all over the world from Darfur, Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Korea. She even has interviews with government whistle-blowers who help point out reasons why the White House will over look genocide in certain situations. Journalist Hrant Dink, who was eventually gunned down in front of his own home, was interviewed in Istanbul about his articles being against the Turkish government and for the acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide, which the Turks have yet to officially recognize.
The movie and the band aim their cameras and mics at governments the world over and ask what it is they are doing to stop such events and why do they let them happen to begin with. Many great points are made here, like the fact that without the Armenian genocide would there have been a Holocaust? If the Turks were stopped, would Hitler have been stopped as well, or would he have had the idea in the first place? These are the kinds of questions this film and System Of A Down want you to ask and to make an effort to do something about.
As Screamers shows too many times governments and presidents have said “never again” and still these things happen. Maybe, as the film points out, “never again” is location specific and not really about the act/crime itself. Maybe the world needs more images of fields of bodies and mountains of severed heads to make it clearer? Maybe this film needs to be watched by all. When speaking of his plan for the Jews, Hitler said, “who remembers the Armenians” and as System’s bass player Shavo Odadjian says, and I agree, “I Do,” and you should too. And not just the Armenians, but those the world over who have gone through events such as those brought into focus here.
The DVD also contains interesting special feature as we get to follow one fan on his journey backstage to meet Serj and Daron. It’s always enjoyable to see bands having fun, especially when they’re as down to earth as our heroes in System. There is a bonus performance of the song “Question” and more concert footage that did not make the films final cut as well. We also get more information on Serj and John’s search for where the villages of their parents and grandparents are located and their thoughts on one day going there themselves.