Who's in It:
John Dolmayan, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, Serj Tankian
The Basics: It's half concert film and half consciousness-raising session. The consciousness part is about the forgotten Armenian genocide of 1915. Led by the Turkish Ottoman Empire, 1.5 million Armenians were decimated. This mass slaying laid the 20th-century groundwork for other genocides conducted by Hitler and Stalin and in places like Cambodia, Kosovo, Iraq and Rwanda. Guess which country refuses to recognize its historical existence, besides Turkey and England? That's right, the USA.
More Basics: The concert part is about System of a Down. They're all Armenian, and their grandparents lived through the genocide. It's a testament to their articulate presentation of the heavy subject matter and to their passion for it that I didn't just quit watching this movie. Because about 50 percent of the screen time is them performing. And I can't stand their music.
What's the Deal? I wish this movie could have focused itself a little better. You get expert talking heads, surprise visits to jerks like Dennis Hastert, video footage of street protests, crowds of stoked teens gleefully singing along to songs about human misery, visits to nursing homes and tour bus hijinks like putting the drummer's hand in warm water while he sleeps. I know that's part of the draw the band's antics but somehow seeing chopped-up bodies right afterward is even more jarring because of it.
Hey, System of a Down Guys, I Have a Good Idea for You: Now, see, what this band needs is to get other artists from other genres involved in doing the same thing. Because if you're not into fastidiously performed orchestral art-metal, then you're not going to see more than two minutes of this. Which pretty much leaves it to Oprah. And even her magical powers aren't enough. Suggestions: Celine Dion, Jay-Z, Garth Brooks, the Decemberists, several lame emo bands, Morrissey, maybe the Boredoms. That way, you could have PSAs where you actually get to hear the words, "Hi, we're the Pussycat Dolls, and we'd like to draw your attention to the suffering in Darfur." I think this is a good idea.