“Who now remembers the Armenians?” Hitler supposedly scoffed before beginning his campaign of genocide against European Jews.
After watching Screamers, the modern-day answer to that rhetorical question is apparent: System of a Down. All four members of the Grammy Award-winning rock band are the grandsons of survivors, and their socially conscious songs reflect their early exposure to firsthand accounts of atrocities committed against long-lost relatives during an attempted extermination that the government of Turkey — and those of the United States and the United Kingdom, for that matter — has never officially acknowledged. Much as it does for the band itself, that “music with meaning” serves here as a hook for the filmmakers to draw audiences ignorant of the genocide into a deeper discussion.
“This band didn't start out to change the world,” lead singer Serj Tankian says. “It didn't start out to change your mind. It started out to make you ask questions.”
A screamer on stage, Tankian is surprisingly soft spoken off of it, but not so much so that he can't ask hard questions — be they of his own grandfather or the outgoing Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who recently prevented a resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide from being debated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Although the passionately politicized front man steals the show here, Garapedian has also interviewed plenty more of the type of people that Samantha Power, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of
A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, characterizes as “up-standers” as opposed to bystanders. By supporting their positions with truly horrifying images of the victims of genocides stretching back from Darfur to Armenia, Garapedian has created a documentary that is sure to have many viewers screaming in protest at politicians who promise “never again” without meaning it.
Cast: Serj Tankian, John Dolymayan, Shavo Odadjian and Daron Malakian
Director: Carla Garapedian
Producers: Nick de Grunwald, Tim Swain, Carla Garapedian and Peter McAlevey
Rating: R for disturbing images of genocide and language
Running time: 89 min.
Release date: December 8, 2006 ltd