A film called 'Screamers' will be released to selected theaters on December 8. The film, directed by Carla Garapedian, recently won the Audience Award at the AFI Film Festival. It movingly and powerfully portrays the Armenian genocide and its effect on history. 'Screamers' follows efforts to have the genocide internationally recognized and ties it to other genocides, past and present - especially Darfur.
Last week I spoke with Serj about the film and the motivation behind his own political thoughts and actions. Serj cofounded Axis of Justice with Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello in order to mobilize musicians and music fans around progressive issues.
Excerpts from our talk follow, and the entire conversation can be found here.
What politicized you? As an Armenian-American, was it your family's memories of the Armenian genocide that opened your eyes?
It was the denial of genocide, more than the genocide itself, that politicized me. I was troubled by the idea that this kind of violence could occur, only to be ignored or covered up. It made me feel I had to act and react. There are so many things going on in the world today that are receiving the same treatment - including, but not limited to Darfur and Rwanda.
In a way, the hypocrisy of the denial is more politicizing than the act itself. I think that the memory of Armenia's genocide opened my eyes at an early age to the existence of political cynicism.
What's your definition
of "genocide"? The diplomatic community
has one, but does the word have a more personal meaning for you?
My thing is figuring out how to put things in a simple
way, so here's my definition: If someone gets attacked because they look
different, act different, or pray differently, that's genocide. And if the mass execution of a people
is organized and perpetrated by a government, that's definitely genocide.
But anytime people are made to suffer as a group because
they're different from others - to me, that's genocide too.
A lot of political
leaders, even well-meaning ones, might say that forcing Turkey to acnowledge
the Armenian genocide would limit our ability to fight terror or do other good
things in the world. What would you say
to someone who argues that the genocide took place almost a century ago, and
that they'd rather concentrate on what we can do today?
recognition of the past affects the present. It's as simple as that. If we're
at the point where we're going to use genocide as currency to get something we
want from another nation ... well, we're really fucked, aren't we?
Let me put it another way: You can't do the wrong thing for the right reason. It won't work. It never has.