No, this is not the movie that promised to show us men turned inside out. It is, in fact, a curious mixture of genocide documentary and concert film. The performance is by rockers System of a Down. The lead singer’s grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide, and so that atrocity is the primary focus of the film, which cuts between concert footage, personal interviews, grisly documents and academic talking heads. By extension, the film also takes a stand against all forms of genocide, and is an explicit invitation to the audience to get involved in the fight for justice.
The mixture of elements is unorthodox, to put it mildly, and the effect is a bit bizarre. There are many moving, heartfelt and sharply observed moments, but one is also left with the feeling of having watched well-meaning but overly earnest and slightly naive agit-prop. Then again, it’s hard to resent the important work the film is trying to do.
The audio quality varies from the excellent to the raw, with the latter being an inevitable product of filming process itself. What this means is that the candid shot-on-video scenes can sometimes sound rather muzzy, but this, naturally, is not the fault of the transfer. The concert sequences, on the other hand, have a deafeningly clear quality to them, and are spectacularly immersive. Fans of the band will be pleased.
Take everything I said in the previous paragraph, substitute “video” for “audio,” and that pretty much sums up the visual experience. There is plenty of grain, particularly in the darker scenes, but again, this is due to the vagaries of filming conditions, and not the move to DVD. Generally speaking, the picture is clear and sharp, and the colours are naturalistic and strong.
The bulk of the extras are really just amounts to deleted scenes, though these bits aren’t without interest, and there is a bonus song. Beyond the movie itself, there is footage of a press conference, a piece on the creation of a glass spiral medallion (conveniently available for purchase), and an exhortation from the director to get involved. There is also an interview with an outspoken Turkish journalist, and this feature is in memoriam… The audio options include the director’s commentary and a cleaned-up version of the film, without the harsh language, designed for school use.
I’m of two minds as to how successful this project is, but it is undeniably a worthy one.