January 20, 2007

Screaming Against Genocide

The U.S. and Turkey still do not recognize the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century, in which 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by the Ottoman Empire. At least the nightmare is over for Armenia. However, those in the Sudan and Rwanda are not so fortunate. Genocide can arguably be considered the greatest offense against humanity. The organized extermination of an entire group of people can never be excused, justified, or rationalized. In the modern global world, when our moral assertions aim higher than at any previous time in recorded history (see 'making the world safe for freedom and Democracy'), we still manage to ignore and marginalize this horrid crime, as it continues to claim the lives and livelihoods of millions in Africa. There is always more we can do. Thankfully there are many of us trying to raise awareness.

From The Washington Post:

Carla Garapedian is a screamer, too, but she doesn't front a nu-metal band. She's a former BBC World anchor and the director of "Screamers," a new documentary about System of a Down's efforts to promote genocide awareness. A "screamer" is someone who can "actually process what a genocide is without defense, without guile," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power says at the beginning of the film. "And when you do that . . . there's no other alternative but to go up to people and to scream."
For System, whose grandparents survived the horrors, and particularly for lead singer Serj Tankian's 96 year old grandfather, whose story the movie follows, the cause is reflected in the sharp riffs and tortured yells of their turbocharged music:
Garapedian, in Washington to promote the film's opening Friday, concurs with the band's approach. "We've all got to stand up and scream and tell our politicians we've got to do something about this now."...

Garapedian hopes the band's abrasive touch will prick viewers' ears. "We've lost our connection to the debate about genocide, and that music brings out the emotion and allows you to access it," says the director, who speaks with the eloquence of a television anchor and the passion of a campus activist.

She first approached the band in 2004, and followed them on tour last summer. "They didn't want it to be a concert documentary film. They wanted the film I envisaged, which was a music-politics film where we use the energy and passion of the music to tell the story of genocide in the last century."

Meanwhile there's a lot more over Screamers's official site, which highlights why this remains such an urgent problem, right here at home in the U.S.:
When the band arrives back in the United States, they confront the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy in the debate on genocide recognition, with Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, actively blocking a vote in Congress. Through the band’s efforts to get Dennis to “Do the Right Thing” and Power’s thesis that America’s interest has always been to stay neutral, no matter how wide-scale the carnage, the film shows how successive Presidents and corporate interests have conspired to turn a blind eye to genocides as they are happening – whether it be Iraqi Kurds in the 80s, Rwanda in the 90s or Darfur today. After the Holocaust, we may say ‘never again’ -- but we don’t mean it.
This is not something that will just go away on its own. It's up to us as empowered citizens of a democratic nation to be both students and teachers of the lessons of the past, as well as guarantors of a peaceful and harmonious future, one in which we all share and embody the intrinsic value of human dignity, respect, and reverence for life. We may forgive the sins of the past (after all, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind), but we must NEVER EVER FORGET.

Peep the trailer for "Screamers" here.

A list of theaters playing "Screamers" resides here.

A list of additional Genocide resources (courtesy of the Screamers website)

Above The Din is a proud supporter of The Genocide Intervention Network (see the lower sidebar).

1 comment:

Doughnutman said...

Congress sort of took up the issue of the Armenian genocide in 2005 but didn't actually do anything with it. The bill is http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.RES.320:

The following states recongnize the Armenian Genocide:

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina