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  • Writer's pictureInternational Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

Aurora’s Sunrise, is Cleaning Up in the International Film Festival Circuit!

March 24, 2023: Aurora’s Sunrise, a historical animated documentary based on the true story of Armenian Genocide survivor, Aurora Mardiganian, receives numerous accolades, awards and recognition from international film festivals, critics and award ceremonies around the world.


The film, based on Zoryan Institute’s original interview with Aurora Mardiganian, tells the brave story of survival of a young Armenian girl who overcame so much to tell the world about her story.

The Zoryan Institute signed a partnership agreement with Bars Media in 2015 to bring Zoryan Institute’s oral history testimonies to life on the big screen through animation, to relay stories of genocide survivors to younger generations, and to help empower young women and girls around the world to follow in Aurora’s footsteps and represent their own communities in the face of trauma and violence.

Since entering the international film festival circuit in June 2022, Aurora Sunrise has been selected as the Armenian submission for the 2023 Oscars and has premiered at 20 different internationally renowned festivals around the world, with more to come. Its latest award was perhaps the most significant yet, winning the Grand Prize at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) of Switzerland, after 10 days of documentary and fiction film screenings. Some of the other notable awards that the film has received to date includes:

  • Audience Award: Europa!Europa! Film Festival (Australia)

  • Grand Prize: The International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) (Switzerland)

  • Best Feature Length Documentary Award: MiradasDoc 2023 (Spain)

  • The Silver Apricot: The Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival 2022 (Armenia)

  • Best Animated Film: The Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2022 (Australia)

  • Best Baltic Producer for Co-Production: The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2022 (Estonia)

  • The Audience Award: Animation is Film Festival 2022 (USA)

  • The Audience Award: Asian World Film Festival 2022 (USA)

  • Second Place for Audience Favourite Film: IDFA 2022 (The Netherlands)

The film is also highly ranked by some of the most influential film critics around the world, scoring a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and with the following glowing reviews:

“A convincing story elegantly told, through archives, animation and fiction, about a little-known genocide that sheds light and awareness on today’s political tensions and challenges.” – MiradasDoc Festival “It is Aurora herself who, unsurprisingly, provides the most poignant observations as she looks back at her life.” –Amber Wilkinson, Eye for Film “Aurora’s Sunrise' is far more than a bricolage documentary. It is a testament to survival. When asked by a journalist what hurt Aurora more, losing her country or losing her family, Aurora’s weary response was “My country is my family."” – Nadine Whitney, AWFJ.org

While the Zoryan Institute can’t help but to take pride in the film’s international achievements, the real gratification comes from being able to use this animated film as an effective resource to teach the next generation about the phenomenon of genocide.

The Zoryan Institute, through its Promoting Equity, Tolerance, Reconciliation and Awareness Through Genocide Education Program, uses the film for high-school students to visually understand life before, during and after genocide, and the impact that it has on individuals, families and communities. The film also allows students to compare and contrast the common threads, patterns and themes of Aurora Mardiganian’s experience as a survivor of the Armenian Genocide to other cases of genocide, to better equip students with the tools to identify patterns of violence and possibly prevent genocides and conflicts of the future.

The animated film, juxtaposed with clips from Zoryan Institute’s original oral history testimony with Aurora Mardiganian, humanizes the experience of genocide and is the perfect medium to deliver such a powerful and heart-wrenching story to a younger audience. Dr. Rouben Adalian, Academic Board Member of the Zoryan Institute and the interviewer of the 1984 Zoryan Institute interview with Aurora Mardiganian, the inspiration for the animated film, had this to say about the film’s impact:


“In the case of the oral history project, the stories are unbelievably difficult to hear, but then to see them recreated in film would, I think, just be way too difficult. The method of animation moderates the difficulties and guides us through her life, and all of its many episodes, using a very respectable technique. That’s to be commended, and I think if she is to be appreciated as a symbol of youth triumph, then the animated film technique is probably the very best way of reaching young men, and especially women, that should and can learn from her example.”

Aurora’s Sunrise is made possible by the academic contribution of the Zoryan Institute and is based on its oral history archives. It is directed by Inna Sahakyan, produced by Bars Media, Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion & Artbox Laisvalaikio Klubas, with the financial partnership of Eurimages, the Zoryan Institute & the National Cinema Center of Armenia, and with the contributions of the Lithuanian Film Center, ZDF/ARTE, Public TV Armenia, and LRT.

For more information about the film visit https://zoryaninstitute.org/auroras-sunrise/ or contact Megan Reid at mreid@zoryaninstitute.org.

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