This year, Armenia submitted Inna Sahakyan’s Aurora’s Sunrise, as its selection for the International Feature Academy Award, making it the second year in a row with a country submitting an animated doc to the category following last year’s Oscar-nominated Flee from Denmark.
Aurora Mardiganian lost her entire family at the hands of the Armenian genocide of 1915, but she managed to survive, escaping to the United States, where she wrote a number of essays about her horrifying experience. After those essays were compiled into the book, “Ravished Armenia,” it was adapted into the 1919 silent film, Auction of Souls, in which Aurora also starred. Due to the film, she became one of her country’s greatest advocates in getting the word out about the war crimes committed by the Turkish army, despite it taking over 100 years for the United States to acknowledge it as a genocide.
Ms. Sahakyan uses many different sources to tell Mardiganian’s story, including portions of the restored Auction of Souls, interviews done with Mardiganian before her death in 1994 (at the age of 93!), but the majority of the film is made-up of gorgeous animation that recreates some of the harrowing events she endured before leaving Armenia.
CinemaDailyUS’ Edward Douglas spoke with Ms. Sahakyan in the video interview you can watch above.
Aurora’s Sunrise will play at the Asian World Film Festival in L.A. on Monday, Nov. 14, as well as at IDFA on Nov. 13, 14, and 18; Tallinn Black Nights, Scanorama, and more festivals. (Aurora’s Sunrise also just won the award for Best Animated Film at the Asian Pacific Screen Awards.)
The film’s summary from the press notes:
At only 14 years old, Aurora lost everything during the horror of the Armenian genocide. Four years later, through luck and extraordinary courage, she escaped to New York, where her story became a media sensation. Starring as herself in Auction of Souls, an early Hollywood blockbuster, Aurora became the face of one of the largest charity campaigns in American history. With a blend of vivid animation, interviews with Aurora herself, and 18 minutes of surviving footage from her lost silent epic, Aurora’s Sunrise revives a forgotten story of survival.