BBC in league with a rock band to broadcast a documentary about genocide, starting with the Armenian massacre
In Rwanda, Bill Clinton did not want the true horrors to come out ...because then he would have to do something. And now, in Darfur, George Bush has finally declared the desolation of the Southern Sudan a “genocide”—yet refused to do what it takes to stop it.
Why? Because, once again, as in 1915, when the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, first reported the wholesale extermination of the Armenian population by the Ottoman Turks in Anatolia, it was denied so the United States would not be forced to act. That reaction gave Hitler his impetus for the Holocaust: “Who remembers the Armenians?” he declared in 1939, before ordering the murder of 6 million European Jews.
In “Screamers,” Garapedian and the multi-platinum selling, Grammy-winning Armenian-American rock band System of a Down trace the history of modern-day genocide from the fertile “Holy Mountains” of Anatolia to Darfur ... in a documentary as shattering as it is powerful, laced with seven of their most famous songs from “Holy Mountains” to “P.L.U.C.K.” to the #1 hit “B.Y.O.B.” that illuminate why the world’s inability to recognize the Turks’ annihilation of the Armenians leads directly to Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. And shows us we can stop it.
Conceived by longtime collaborators Peter McAlevey and Carla Garapedian (herself an Armenian-American and documentary director of “Lifting the Veil” and “Children of the Secret State”), “Screamers” came together in the summer 2004 after producer McAlevey (“Radio Flyer,” “Shadow Hours”) approached System of a Down’s legendary record-label head Rick Rubin about partnering with the band to make a documentary about one of their main causes – recognition of the Armenian genocide.
With Rubin’s enthusiastic endorsement, Garapedian met lead vocalist Serj Tankian, who was eager to broaden the scope of the film to underline the band’s key message -- how the world’s denial of the Turk’s Armenian genocide contributed to the continuing crisis of international genocides ever since – from Armenia to present-day Darfur.
After four months of following mercenaries in Africa (for another film, UK Channel 4’s acclaimed “My Friend the Mercenary”), Garapedian met Tankian again in April 2005 and discussed a plan to allow cameras to follow the band on their European and American tours last summer and fall as they promoted their new, two-album set, “Mesmerize” and “Hypnotize.” (Their last album, 2001’s “Toxicity,” has sold 5 million copies, according to Esquire Magazine.) With the band’s cooperation, McAlevey and Garapedian, along with British producer Nick de Grunwald, secured a deal with BBC Television for UK TV rights. The film was mainly financed by The Raffy Manoukian Charity in the UK.
Full production began in Britain the first week of June 2005, with Garapedian directing a crew provided by de Grunwald’s Isis Productions at the band’s concerts at the legendary Brixton Academy and Berlin’s Arena Taplow. Garapedian later traveled with the band through Germany to Holland, and later to the Graspops festival in Dessel, Belgium.
Returning to the USA, Garapedian teamed up with McAlevey stalwarts -- DP Charles Rose, editor Bill Yahraus, post-production supervisor Robin M. Rosenthal and production manager Don West -- as the band continued its tour in the States. She attempted to track down House Speaker Dennis Hastert (who, according to Vanity Fair magazine, has taken $500,000 in campaign contributions from the Turks in return for allowing an Armenian genocide recognition bill from ever being passed by the House of Representatives), visited a 100-year-old survivor and, most importantly, spent time with Tankian’s grandfather, one of the few remaining eyewitnesses of the genocide.
Finally, just this spring, seven months after staging a protest rally at Dennis Hastert’s offices in Illinois (dubbed “Dennis, Do the Right Thing”), Tankian and drummer John Dolmayan confronted Hastert in the Capital Rotunda ... luckily, the cameras were there.
With an ending filmed in the actual village in Turkey where the massacre of Tankian’s ancestors began, set against the ghostly strains of the hit “Holy Mountains,” Garapedian’s film comes full circle from 1915 through the horrors of 20th and 21st Century genocide in Darfur ... to a finale of ghostly images of real ancestors that will never be forgotten.
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