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The Critical Corner - 12/05/2006

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SCREAMERS: LOUDER IS DEFINITELY BETTER

Armenian News Network / Groong
December 5, 2006

By Bedros Afeyan


MG2 Productions in association with Isis productions UK, BBC
Television and the Raffy Manoukain Charity, present the movie
"Screamers" featuring the rock band System of a Down (SOAD), conceived
by Carla Garapedian and Peter Mcalevey, produced by them and Nick de
Grunwald and Tim Swain, and directed by Carla Garapedian.

This movie is woven around the System of a Down international rock
concert tour in 2005, SOULS, 90th Commemoration of a forgotten
genocide. We see excerpts from their Los Angeles, London, Donnington
and Amsterdam concerts. System of a Down is composed of Serj Tankian
(lead singer), John Dolmayan (drums), Daron Malakian (guitar), and
Shavo Odadjian (bass). They are a heavy metal rock band with many
other rock styles infusing and enriching their music. They are a bold,
loud, no nonsense, politically and socially engaged band with
extremely loyal followers around the world since they wail against
violence, war, multinationals, discrimination, injustice and above
all, for the purposes of this review, genocide, from Rwanda, Sudan all
the way back to the first genocide of the 20th century, that
perpetrated by the Turks of the Ottoman empire against the Armenians.

Wikipedia will tell you that Daron wrote a poem called Victims of a
Down and Shavo thought System sounds better than Victim and their odd
band name was born. The band was formed in 1995 and is on hiatus as of
2006. In their 10 year initial run they have produced five very
successful albums with the titles: System of a Down (1998), Toxicity
(2001), Steal This Album (2002), Mezmerize (May, 2005) and Hypnotize
(Nov. 2005). Of these, the second, fourth and fifth have been #1
albums in the US, the fourth has been #1 in the UK, the second and
fourth have been #1 in Canada and the forth and fifth in Australia and
Ireland too. To find out much more about their sound, lyrics and
cultural space, visit http://www.systemofadown.com/

So what is the movie "Screamers" about? It is an in your face
documentary about a passionate cry for help the band members make with
their fans, with our national representatives (Dennis Hastert in
particular, the then (and now ousted) Speaker of the House) and
everyone in between. It is a powerful documentary that shows rock
stars making a case for reason and rationality, for peace, for justice
and the stopping of lies and obfuscations in the hands of Turkey and
its allies in the US and British political systems. All this is shown
via congressional testimony footage, Turkish protests in Istanbul
against conferences of historians to debate the genocide, the hatred
and death threats against their most recent nobel laureate novelist,
Orhan Pamuk, who allowed himself to state that maybe the genocide did
happen, and other such travesties in modern Turkey. Screamers shows us
young Armenian protesters in the US and Britain with banners and
civilized manners publicly demanding the recognition and restitution
owed us by the republic in Turkey which otherwise wants to canonize
and marvel at the achievements of their ancestors such as Talaat
Pasha, a butcher and executor of the deportations and killings which
caused a million Armenians to perish in the summer of 1915 alone.

Screamers is very effective and very well edited. It is a professional
and high class yet raw and passionate look at a quest and a vision
with survivors depicting in complete detail what happened to their
loved ones in the hands of the Turks and Kurds who used the cover of
the first world war to annihilate the Armenian citizens of the Ottoman
empire and evacuate ancestral Armenian lands which are still occupied
by Turkey today. We see American and British politicians who are aware
of these injustices and know they have to be redressed and their
counterparts who couldn't care less about our fate and prefer to
appease modern day Turkey with economic and security concerns trumping
their sense of justice and human rights. These tend to be
conservatives in our or Britain's parliaments while France, Holland,
Germany, Sweden, Canada and so many other nation states (17 in all)
have recognized the historical fact that a genocide was committed by
the Turks against the Armenians. Meanwhile, genocides continue in
Africa even today... Screamers exposes these facts and disseminates
the truth about the multitude of attitudes and currents running
through the veins of survivors and their testimonials, of politicians,
thinkers and journalists the world over from Peter Jennings to
Samantha Powers, Baroness Cox to Dennis Hastert and his conservative
cronies such as Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana doubting the veracity of
the Armenian genocide...

See this movie as soon as you can. It is engaging and unpretentious.
It wears its emotions on its sleeves and it speaks directly with the
young rebellious tone that will reach the world's youth most directly.
It is alternative rock meets historical horrors. It is an excellent
mixture of video, film and still photographs from our 90 year old past
with System of a Down concert footage from across the world animating
and igniting the energy level of this movie. US noninvolvement in
genocides where we do not have a clear monetary interest is brought
out by Samantha Powers, the famous author of "The Problem from Hell,"
a book which is a must read by all those interested in the problem of
genocide. She explains how our state department just turns its back
and denies all responsibility to stop these horrors when they occur
and covers that up afterwards such as it did so spectacularly in
Rwanda and is doing now in the Sudan. An Armenian Cause activist
declares: "I can tell you today, more people find out about the
Armenian Genocide from a System of a Down than every other method
combined!" If this is true, there is a lot to think about on the part
of the rest of us who are not wielding rock guitars, giant amps and
woven beards or Satan-esque goatees while screaming obscenities and
expletives only to turn on a dime and sing sheepishly, melodically and
revert to heavy metal uproars of plucked wisdom and controlled phonic
chaos. Samantha Powers speaks about upstandsers as distinct from
bystanders, those who speak out during genocide as it is being
perpetrated, and in our case, we have the US Ambassador to Ottoman
Turkey Henry Morgenthau whose grandson speaks on his behalf in
Screamers. He depicts his grandfather's efforts to try and stop the
bloodshed back in 1915, to no avail alas, except to chronicle it for
posterity.

We return to a SOAD concert, with hints of the famous patriotic song
Sardarabad being played on the guitar and a few of the words being
sung by Serj, Zanker ghoghanchen, may the bells toll and reverberate,
the call to arms in 1918 when yet another onslaught by the Turks, this
time at the outskirts of Yerevan, Eastern Armenia's capital, where
resistance repelled the troupes and a nation hobbled along, three
quarters destroyed, nine tenths of its territory lost, soon to enter
under the yoke of communism, and diasporas rejuvenating themselves
giving us Beirut born heros such as Serj and Daron, conscious,
conscientious, resolved and determined to honor the memory of their 96
year old ancestors who do tell us in Armenian what actually happened,
how, by whom, and what effect it had on their long lives since 1915,
since Efkere, Gessaria (Kayseri), since Giligia (Cilicia), the Western
Armenian heartland lost to Turks and Kurds and not yet returned to
its rightful owners, the Armenians. mothers and fathers who have sons
and daughters who have now given birth to rock musicians who rock the
world with their truth beyond the songs about drugs and dropping acid
and chop suey and love in its afternoons and tumultuous evenings. They
sing: "Aisbess dzakets, Arekagets, Sardarabadi mard@ medz." That is
how it was born, was illuminated and made brilliant under the sun, the
big battle at Sardarabad... with the lone guitar melody gliding upon
our collective memory unscathed in the middle of a heavy metal
barnstorm.

And then we see Serj wheeling his maternal grandfather around in a
hospital so that he may begin speaking on camera. His grandfather's 96
year old older brother takes over the narrative followed by his
sister. They tell the whole story.  From birth to deportations, with
period sepia photographs making the experience unforgettable. The
music is evocative, the narrative, compelling, the photographs,
devastating. Serj also recounts what he has been told, interspersed
with the memories of the other band member's relatives. We see why
they care and how seriously they care about their family honor and
memory which is the shred of truth left in a world of make believe
around them. Serj lists all the genocides of the twentieth century and
compels us to think of them as one and to eradicate them once and for
all. Yet we have today's bombs in Iraq, our war de jour, own crusade
of futility and why we love our bombs dropped globally.  Liberating
bombs and democratic violence for all. Then, back to Ottoman Turkey we
go. Or a British classroom studying the genocide, and then some
British kids reading survivor testimonies. The pictures again are
authentic period sepia photographs. The descriptions are so graphic I
prefer not recounting the horrors of stuck skulls in bushes and trees
being kicked into the river after the body of their mother is already
discarded... Serj's great uncle tells this story, then his sister,
then a British youth reading the rest of the rapes, the murders, the
whippings and then back to his uncle again... the music, new age,
sombre, slaughter being described until Henry Morgenthau the III
described his grandfather's stories with Talaat and the uselessness of
his protests.

Churchill is evoked by a modern British conservative member of the
European parliament, Charles Tannock, saying it was the murder of a
nation, other members of the house of lords such as Baroness Cox
concur and describe further how wrong it is for British governments to
cow tow to Turkey as opposed to being steadfastly on the side of the
truth and human justice. "We've got a government that goes groveling
to the Turks, but why, why?" asks Lord Shannon. And then he explains,
Turkey persuaded the West in 1918 while they should have been getting
punished for what they did that it was needed against the Bolshi's,
then against communism, more precisely "so as to mount nuclear
missiles and rockets near the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union" (ie
in historical Armenia and next to present day Armenia!).  He goes on
to say, and now why do we still bother with them? Ah, well it is a
nice (cheap) place for a holiday! At which point we cut to a
spectacularly well prepared long ad sequence extolling the virtues and
value of a holiday in Turkey from a DVD prepared by their ministry of
tourism which is good enough to make you want to puke...  Especially
as the gaffe perpetrated by Time Magazine Europe is exposed where
Turkey negotiated sending out this DVD, called I Dream of Turkey, to
Time Magazine's European subscribers, one meant to be the innocent
sounding tourism brochure but which was found out to contain a secret
Extra: the lame arguments of genocide denial which the Turkish
government tries to use in its propaganda war to escape the truth of
its own past. By now the absurdity has mounted to a feverish if
sickening pitch but the documentary Screamers is winking at you, its
audience, at its own excellence as well. We are shown these Turkish
arguments by professional mouth pieces of their government machine...
What a sight it is! They even have Armenians living in Turkey saying
that their grandfathers used to say (in Armenian) how great the Turks
were and how benevolent their disposition was towards the Armenians...
If they were killed, it goes on, come and show us the graves...
We'll dig there too! And back we go again to the glorious Turkish
culture basking pieces of the DVD, now with the Aya Sophia Mosque, now
with their women, their horsemen, and their welcoming rose petals. It
is just too absurd to describe. Then, Time Magazine apologizes for the
gaffe and tries distancing itself from it, as depicted in Screamers.
Lord Avebury continues the narrative of British opinions on the right
side of this issue, the history, Britain's role, and we enter another
SOAD London concert with great pleasure.

We are faced with the lyrics of whether or not one can trust in his
self righteous suicide, irony, Armenian genocide pictures, heavy
metal; the mix is intoxicating and the question whether angels deserve
to die, sung by young female fans accompanying the impressive tenor
lyrical voice of Serj Tankian. Then some of the last words Jesus spoke
to his dad, as made popular by Jesus Christ Superstar, about being
forsaken are heard... Angels, suicide, death, why and why? While those
same fans are in an ecstatic stupor crunched-in like sardines, their
hair wet and sticky with hunger for the escape from the ordinary, for
the search for meaning beyond consumerism, beyond mindless sex, drugs
and rock and roll which here, at least, packs a punch! And a slow
lullaby of self righteous suicide, angels, why, cry, die, and middle
eastern music takes us to Donnington for the next concert. But before
the concert, we hear Serj describe the events that preceded the
genocide to a British fan and activist. He is leafing through some
blown up photographs of orphans and thinks he has spotted his maternal
grandfather in a Greek or Cypriot orphanage.  At this point, with a
lone dudug (haunting Armenian wind instrument made ever so popular in
the new age scene by Djivan Gasparian) we return to the great uncle
depicting that portion of how he and his brother came to the US while
their middle brother, David, perished.  The outdoor concert takes over
again and MURDER! is being screamed, it is the same song, BYOB, in
your eyes, you have forsaken me, in your heart, in your mind, trust in
my self-righteous suicide... And you see how it all fits together. The
bassist talks of how his ancestors were annihilated as they travel by
tour bus at night to their next gig. The next morning, same bus, the
European country side, rain and Amsterdam. Ann Frank and the holocaust
are shown in graphic detail with a Dutch historian voice over only to
lead us to video from Rwanda. And we see video and voice over
depictions of the machete and stone hurling genocide... And we see the
killing fields with the lone dudug in the background uniting the eras,
the continents, the inhumanity, quickly followed by Sarajevo, Bosnia,
and Peter Golbraith Junior, an ex-US Senate staffer, describing how
it happens while we see the bones, the mounds, the evidence of tied
hands and feet around skulls and bones of silence...

The Amsterdam concert is at night, the same song is shown, evoking the
cries of of a generation screaming at what it sees and feels in its
bones. Samantha Powers depicts the saga from Armenia to Rwanda, the
similarities and consequences. The story moves on. There is no peace
in the graveyard, she says. This brings us to the genocide denial
machine via nationalist Turkish rhetoric interspersed with Tanner
Akcam's (a Turkish historian) account of what actually happened in
1915 and how much raw historical evidence exists (telegrams, missives,
reports, etc.) to substantiate the truth Turkey is so desperately
denying.  We then see historical pictures of our churches and their
state in present day Turkey. The desecration, the destruction, the
erasing of all traces of our existence on our ancestral homeland is
all there.... This is followed by fanatical Turks boycotting his
movies and burning books and copies of Arnold Schwarzenegger's picture
because he signed into law, California recognizing the Armenian
genocide.

The "genocide jig" (a term introduced by Samantha Powers in the film)
is put on display next. You see American politicians dancing around
the G word, ducking and obfuscating when they are not willing to get
involved. This footage is precious since it involves Kosovo, Darfour,
Rwanda and the whole shameful mess of the last decade or so. It also
involves papa Bush, Clinton and the second coming of Bush and their
state department spokesmen and white house press secretaries.  This is
followed by footage of Adolf's lovely logic justifying the removal of
the vermin, the inferior race, from the pure Germans.

Armenian genocide victims are shown again interspersed with the 2005
attempt to have our house of representatives vote for the house
international affairs Armenian genocide resolutions which had passed
the committee and eventually got blocked by that same representative
Hastert whom Serj confronts and from whom he gets a quick brush off.

Hastert blocked the resolution from coming to the house floor for a
vote under extreme Turkish pressure, this movie alleges. We will have
to try and try again until we succeed. Significant domestic pressure
is required and we have to apply it as best we can. SOAD has done its
part to awaken the young, to scream their hearts out and also through
this powerful movie. Now, it is our turn to do what we can to finally
leave Turkey all alone with no allies toeing its lie of denialist
crime, compounding its historical crimes by this revisionist slithery
state of existence which will not be a very good means of becoming a
member of Europe or any other civilized group of nations.

Darfur and their atrocities are shown next for a live ongoing genocide
we are doing nothing about. SOAD is pointing out that declaring
genocides and then saying there is nothing to be done, as we have done
in Sudan, is an outrage and one we have to fix now. This despite the
fact that it is outed how the Sudanese government has fooled the
cowboys in charge here that they will help the US government fight Al
Qaida terrorism. With that excuse, the United States is allowing
Darfur's tragedy to continue. And who remembers the Armenian genocide?

We return to Serj's grandfather and great uncle and great aunt. The
dudug comes back and Serj gives us the coda. Recognition, reparations,
reform, Efkere, Cilicia, a home, land, rivers, the soil and the way it
pulls you, while the music changes again to SOAD's call for action as
a personal video camera walks around his family plot back to Efkere,
the stone walls, crumbling structures and pictures of surviving
orphans superposed as Screamers walk us through time and into the
desolation that is our homeless homeland awaiting our return and the
words: "What is unacceptable is to do nothing."

Get this movie and see what you should do next to become a screamer
yourself.


--
Dr. Bedros Afeyan is a theoretical physicist who works and lives in
the Bay area with his wife, Marine. He writes in Armenian and in
English and also paints and sculpts. Samples of his work can be found
on the web by clicking on his personal web pages at:
http://208.177.152.139/

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