Tankian keeps Armenian Genocide discussion alive: Pop Matters

Tankian keeps Armenian Genocide discussion alive: Pop Matters

PanARMENIAN.Net - Possessing one of the most distinctive voices in music, Serj Tankian -- lead singer of Grammy award-winning, multi-platinum alternative metal band System Of A Down, as well as being a solo artist and poet -- is well renowned for using his platform to give a voice to the voiceless, Pop Matter says in an article about the artist's efforts to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide.

Since the very early days of System of a Down, Tankian's lyrics have addressed subjects such as political hypocrisy, religious intolerance, censorship, and genocide. In fact, a common thread throughout his artistic endeavors over his 20+ years in the music industry has been his efforts to seek recognition of and gain justice for the Armenian genocide that saw roughly 1.5 million Armenians systematically slaughtered between 1915 and 1918 by the then reigning Ottoman empire. A crime that is still not recognized as genocide by numerous countries including the US and the UK.

His latest project finds Tankian taking on the scoring of a film that, not only details the events of the period, widely known as the Armenian holocaust, but also looks to move the conversation forward by offering an even-handed dissection of how one country, Turkey, has sought to manipulate the narrative of the genocide and how other countries have been complicit in the rewriting of history.

The film, Intent to Destroy, was made by film-maker, Joe Berlinger, best known for his work on Paradise Lost which directly contributed to the release of the West Memphis Three. Embedding himself on the set of the Christian Bale-starring film The Promise, which was set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide, Berlinger combines footage from that film with interviews and often harrowing archival footage. It is as hard-hitting, thought-provoking, and visceral as the name would imply with a score from Tankian that beautifully and often heartbreakingly ties the film's various parts together. Here, Tankian talks in depth to PopMatters about the film and his work on it, as well as how artistically fulfilling he finds the process of film scoring.

For an artist who has spent his entire career trying to raise awareness of the genocide as well as justice for the people of Armenia, it was easy for Tankian to get involved in the project. "For me, it was something I've cared deeply about. I've always talked about awareness to do with the Armenian Genocide and the need for recognition." Nevertheless, Tankian is keen to point out that the film is much more than a simple documentation of the events of the genocide. "This film is different from any other film because it doesn't just talk about the genocide, it talks about a modern story which is in government, nefariously, using disinformation and millions of dollars and hiring lobbying firms and all this stuff around the world to try and rewrite history and it's such a unique thing. We're talking about a whole government doing this and strong-arming the strongest country in the world, the US, to kind of play on its own terms."

That government he refers to is the Turkish government. Beginning with the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, each successive administration has sought to twist and distort history. A process that is the very essence of the film. "I think the film does an incredible job at showing how something as important as a genocide, where one and a half million people perished. How, Number One, the lesson of that has not been learned and, Number Two, how denialism to do with the genocide is being worked. It's like this machine and how one leader can change the narrative of a nation by recreating the language, by recreating the narrative after a world war."

With his work on Intent to Destroy, Tankian continues to keep the discussion about the Armenian genocide alive through his art. A medium that is critical for a greater understanding of the world we live in, as Tankian attests by saying. "The arts are really the best way to inspire people to look into the truth."

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