According to Susan Power, Harvard University Professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the book A Problem from Hell:  America and the Age of Genocide, a "screamer" is somebody who, after experiencing or learning about genocide, will do what he/she can to tell the rest of the world about the atrocity.  System of a Down, a band consisting of Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and John Dolyman are screamers.  And a loud one at that.  System of a Down is wildly popular due to its heavy sound and pounding beats.  The difference is that unlike many of its peers, there is a surprising amount of substance behind the music.  All four band members are of Armenian descent, and one of their stated goals is to publicize the 1915 genocide of Armenians by Turkey.

Unfortunately, Screamers the movie is a bit mixed.  It should have either been a history of the Armenian genocide (akin to Ararat) or a movie focused on System of a Down.  As it stands, the movie will appeal most to System fans, because it alternates concert footage with footage of them trying to get their message out and back history on the Armenian genocide, plus information on other genocides like the Holocaust, Rwanda, and what is currently happening in the Darfur region of Sudan.  This information is highly fascinating and provides context, but because Screamers tries to cram so much information into a short amount of time, these other sad periods in history feel shortchanged.  As compelling as the concert footage is, it is a bit heavy for the stereotypical documentary crowd.  The interesting aspects of Carla Garapedian's movie are the ones where she lets Tankian and his band mates speak at length, as well as the vast historical information on this forgotten genocide.

In 1915, with the Ottoman Empire declining and losing land, the Turkish government openly began killing the Armenian Christian minority.  Afterwards, the government convicted the person responsible for the campaign, but in the meantime, history, for the most part, has forgotten about this murderous campaign.  The Armenian minority has been vocal in the meantime, but the Turkish government has shot down all attempts to shed light on its history.  Worse, there are draconian laws concerning the events, and people can and have gone to jail for merely mentioning the genocide.  Recognizing it is also politically problematic.  Turkey is a strategic partner for the United States and Britain (two countries who have yet to recognize the genocide).  Recognition could mean reparations in the form of land and money.

In between songs, Tankian and his band mates talk about the Armenian genocide.  Outside the concert venues are booths where people can sign petitions asking the United States to formally recognize the events.  At one point, Tankian joins a protest outside ex-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's home office and later has a cordial hallway meeting with him in Washington D.C.  Every year, various Congressmen try to pass a resolution, but again, because of the politics behind the situation, the resolution inevitably fails.  Tankian is a bit disappointed, but continues one with his efforts.  The best part?  He and the rest of System are completely sincere in their efforts.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 29 minutes, Rated R for disturbing images of genocide and language.

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