Drawing frequently from her own reporting over a quarter-century at CNN, Christiane Amanpour’s sobering look at the modern history of genocide is a kind of “worst-of” collection — a stark reminder of how lack of political will has repeatedly allowed acts of “unchecked evil.” Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Iraq, Bosnia and Darfur is a lot of ground to cover in two hours, but Amanpour’s focus on those who spoke out and “screamed bloody murder” is most telling for how regularly such warnings have represented too little, too late.
Held up against the heavy barrage of fluff, empty gab and general inanity (holograms!) on cable news, Amanpour’s willingness to tackle big, serious topics (her last documentary focused on religious zealotry) should qualify her for national-treasure status. The reporter’s longform documentary work also demonstrates there’s no reason that distant locales and subtitled subjects must be noncommercial and boring.
Even so, there are some irritating elements that mar this otherwise commendable project — including the annoying choice to keep repeating the title over and over, as it were a quizshow catchphrase. Come on, this doesn’t have to be Genocide for Dummies.
For the most part, though, Amanpour deftly connects history to recent events, beginning with Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who coined the term “genocide” in the 1940s in the wake of the Holocaust. As the special chronicles, such atrocities have met with tepid international response because intervention in faraway locales is seldom politically expedient, despite heroic efforts by figures such as Catholic missionary Francois Ponchaud in Cambodia and former U.N. peacekeeping commander Romeo Dallaire in Rwanda, whose pleas for action went tragically unheeded.
“Scream Bloody Murder” closes with Amanpour’s return visit to Rwanda — where she finds a ray of hope in the reconciliation between perpetrators and survivors of the horrors that transpired — and the humanitarian efforts in Darfur, “the first genocide of the 21st century.”
In a way, its title actually does this piece a disservice: Far from the usual cable screamers, Amanpour presses her case in a methodical, sober manner — illustrating that despite all the pledges of “never again,” the world too often turns a blind eye until it’s all over but the shouting.