Screamers chronicles 1915 genocide

The Armenian National Committee last week hosted a screening of “Screamers,” a documentary film directed by a former BBC World anchorwoman, Carla Garapedian.

A driving force of the movie is the heavy-metal band System of a Down’s take on the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, and the tensions surrounding Turkey’s denial that the killings were racially motivated.

Garapedian also follows the journey of Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) House Resolution, passed by House International Relations Committee in the 109th Congress, recognizing the Armenian massacre as genocide. The resolution never made it to a floor vote — according to the film, because of then-Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) relationship with Turkish lobbyists.

In the film, members of System of a Down accost Hastert in the Capitol Rotunda and the lawmaker brushes them off.

“Dennis Hastert looks like a genocide-denier,” Garapedian told The Hill.

The filmmaker, a granddaughter of an Armenian genocide survivor, initiated the project after attending a 2004 System of a Down concert. Garapedian said she was intrigued by the band’s dedication to political and humanitarian issues.

“[The] band’s message is to raise awareness about all the genocides that have happened in the last century and the denial that has happened about those genocides,” she said. “It’s a universal message.”

The haunting movie delves into the U.S. response to genocide, charging that the American government has responded universally with what Garapedian called “politics of denial and appeasement.” She examines why the United States has been reluctant to describe the events of 1915 as genocide, citing economic and military ties to Turkey. The film also touches on the genocides of Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda, and calls the Armenian genocide Hitler’s blueprint for the Holocaust. All the while, the film weaves in powerful System of a Down concert footage.

Tensions between Turks and Armenians were raised again last week when Hrant Dink, a Turkish-American journalist who spoke out against the Turkish response to the Armenian genocide, was mysteriously murdered.

The co-chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), last week condemned Turkey in a statement: “We ... are deeply concerned that the Turkish Government’s continued persecution of citizens who dare speak truth about the Armenian genocide could have helped provoke this violent crime.”

Dink’s murder also brings attention to Schiff’s resolution. Following the screening, Pallone expressed optimism that Congress would vote and pass the resolution.

Garapedian expressed hope that the resolution would be brought to the House floor this year, but she remains skeptical.

“The issue is whether [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who in the past has supported this effort, will allow a vote or will … be under the same pressures as Dennis Hastert from all these organizations that are afraid of angering Turkey,” she said.

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