Screamers, directed by Carla Garapedian, is a hard hitting documentary about the Armenian Genocide of 1915, perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, and its continued denial.
Garapedian earned her Ph.D. in international relations at the prestigious London School of Economics, before cutting her teeth as a correspondent for NBC and later being swept up by the BBC as a director and anchor.
Screamers, features the music and live concert footage of the multi-platinum, heavy-metal rock band System of a Down, combining the personal testimony of genocide survivors and historians, the haunting images of the victims of genocide, and the heart-pounding energy and message of System of a Down’s music. It presents an unforgettable and captivating lesson in genocide that even the LA Times calls, “Eye-opening.”
What is a screamer? According to Pulitzer-Prize-winning Harvard Professor Samantha Power, screamers are people who throughout history refuse to stand idly by and watch genocides unfold. Power, the author of A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, is featured throughout Garapedian’s film, and has shown the connection between the Armenian genocide (the first genocide of the 20th century) and the subsequent genocides that followed in the 20th and 21st centuries. When asked the question, “Why do genocides continue in the 21st century?” Garapedian responded, “Because those who perpetrated them in the 20th century got away with it.”
Screamers, which centers around Tankian’s journey, shows how Tankian’s grandfather Stepan Haytayan, a 96 year-old survivor of the Armenian genocide, inspired him to fight against the injustice of the Armenian genocide, being dismissed by both the Turkish government and the United States government. In addition to Haytayan’s testimony, Garapedian presents the horrific testimony of two other genocide survivors: Maritza Ohanesian and Verjin Mempreian, each of whom tell their own heart-wrenching stories of how their family members were slaughtered by Ottoman soldiers.
To present the unbiased historical facts, Garapedian gathered testimony and footage from Turkish historian and dissident Taner Akçam, former FBI Turkish translator and whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds, historian Ara Sarafian (Gomidas Institute), and the late Hrant Dink (editor of Agos weekly newspaper, Istanbul). The film shows how the current government of Turkey, not only denies, but also attempts to imprison anyone who dares to speak publicly about the genocide. It is through a controversial law, titled Article 301, that Turkey has tried to make the discussion of the issue of the Armenian genocide a taboo subject within Turkey. By prosecuting scholars like Akçam and Orhan Pamuk, based on comments they have made about the Armenian genocide, Turkey has been able to control what its own citizens know or do not know about their own history.
Garapedian’s film also shows how the Turkish government has continually tried to prevent its world-wide image from being tarnished by misusing its political power. The film focuses its attention on former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert. It shows Tankian and System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan confronting Hastert on his political stance on the pending House Genocide Resolution. The band members encouraged Hastert to, “Do the right thing.” However, Hastert, who has allegedly been at the center of a bribery scandal with Turkey over the Armenian genocide recognition initiatives, did not do the right thing after all.
Screamers is not just a documentary about the Armenian genocide, but of all genocides. The film concludes by displaying the numbers of individuals killed in genocides during the last two centuries. “Armenia, 1.5 million dead; The Holocaust, 6 million dead; Cambodia, 2 million dead; Rwanda, 800,000 dead; Bosnia, 200,000 dead; Darfur, 400,000 dead…and counting.”
The world needs more screamers in order to prevent additional killings. Serj Tankian and System of a Down are screamers. Carla Garapedian is a screamer. I also agree with Serj Tankian’s statement at the end of the film, when he said, “I think we should all be screamers.”
If you have not yet seen Screamers, it is no longer playing in your local theatre, so look for it in the near future on DVD. For more information visit http://www.screamersmovie.com.