Democracy Rock and Original Indie Comedy Are Alive and Well

BOSTON, Mass. (A.W.)—On Sun., May 3, the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA) and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) presented writer-director Johnny Asuncion’s 2008 feature film “Float,” preceded by five music videos created for System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian’s solo album “Elect the Dead.”

The poster of "Float"
The poster of "Float"

The music videos were well thought-out short films whose political imagery and brilliance brought all those in attendance to a short round of applause before the last had even concluded.

Director Tony Petrossian’s video “Empty Walls” evoked engorging and visceral, metaphorical anti-Iraq war imagery made eerie due to its double entente of children in a chaotic “Chuck-E-Cheese” play palace environment.

All blatantly taken from well-known news clips of the Iraq conflict adapted to children playing war, the audience sees children in bike helmets meant to represent U.S. soldiers breaking down doors with boot heels, taking away civilians to a mesh ball-pit meant to be Gitmo, confetti explosions meant to be napalm, a child standing in the same garb as those tortured at Abu-Ghraib, and a triumphant little boy standing beside a “Mission Accomplished” sign in birthday party letters representing the carnage and bloodshed of the Bush Administration’s Iraq policies.

All this amid the children dropping in feigned death in farce of our war-torn reality. This is all hit home by the video’s final imagery of real-life U.S. Marines in dress uniform carrying to burial their fallen comrades.

Next, Tawd B. Dorenfeld’s video “The Unthinking Majority” is an indictment to the U.S.’s militarism for the sake of Turkish/Azeri and OPEC oil politics.

Told through the use of brown and gray toy soldiers and stop-motion animation, we see images of women, children, civilians, and those deemed enemy combatants in the name of oil revenue destroyed and cut down.

Poignantly, all this occurs as dancing Smilex pharmaceutical pills numb the soldiers and the drugged-up public to collusion and march into their mouths in imagery actually taken directly from World War I Bolshevik anti-Czarist posters, which once showed imperial Russian troops marching into the mouth of death for the Czar.

In Ara Soudjian’s “Money,” we see a piece that embodies the U.S.’s culture of political and consumer greed and directly lampoons George W. Bush in caricature.

Narratively the caricature goes in the beginning of the video from a clean-cut sinister-looking senator to a Dorian Gray monstrosity surrounded by Whores of Babylon booty dancers peddling influence and blood-soaked oil lobby hands executing a Mexican child dressed as the Statue of Liberty in tableau of a U.S.A. real-estate lawn sign marked “Sold.”

In Sevag Vrej’s “Feed Us,” we see an exposure of the U.S.’s apathy towards homelessness via a homeless everyman wandering the cruel and unfeeling streets of L.A. amid dispassionate citizens that shun the homeless and hold up placards like “Religion,” “Gambling,” “Terrorism,” and reasons we as Americans are distracted from caring about our fellow man. Conversely, we see two kind children bearing “Faith” and “Hope” that represent the solutions to these plights.

In Kevin Estrada’s “Save Us,” we see how America’s youth are brainwashed through “Newspeak” to universal societal conformity through repetition and fear via the imagery of “The All Seeing Eye”—a Pythagorean and Egyptian symbol seen on the U.S. dollar bill, within Freemasonry, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, George Orwell’s 1984, and others.

In contrast, Johnny Asuncion’s film “Float” starring Hrach Titizian is a heartfelt underdog indie-comedy that leaves you walking out of the theater feeling upbeat and life-affirmed. The film is set in modern-day Glendale and revolves around an ultra hospitable but wheeler-dealer Armenian 20-something named Gevorg who works in an ice cream parlor called “Float.” The movie solidifies as an offbeat tale of friendship and fatherhood as Gevorg ends up bringing together and sheltering his mid-life crisis boss and down-on-his-luck, south Asian, ultimate fighter wannabe friend, with subplots involving a Green Card marriage to Gevorg’s gorgeous Armenian cousin and the boss’s daughter, bitter and returned from the Peace Corp.

With a humor as original as Kevin Smith but as offbeat as “Napoleon Dynamite” or “The Foot Fist Way,” “Float” is up there with “The Kebab Connection” on the list of Best Indie Comedies your friends have never heard of but need to be shown.

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Andy Turpin

Andy Turpin has been the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly since 2006. He was raised in Palma City, Fla. His family is of Italian, Welsh and Armenized-Romani stock. He graduated from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., with degrees in history and journalism. Following graduation, he went to Armenia as an English as a Second Language (ESL) U.S. Peace Corp volunteer. He received his CELTA-ESL degree from Cambridge University in 2006.

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