April 21, 2023, Arizona: Yesterday, the Zoryan Institute had the great pleasure of screening the award-winning animated film, Aurora’s Sunrise, to students, scholars, and community members at the Mirabella Lifelong Learning Auditorium at Arizona State University as part of the 11th Rosenbluth Genocide Awareness Week. This film, based on the Zoryan Institute’s oral history interview with Armenian Genocide survivor, Aurora Mardiganian, received a warm and contemplative reception from audience members, who were left speechless and deeply moved after the screening.
Aurora’s Sunrise tells the brave story of survival of an Armenian girl who overcame so much adversity to tell the world about her story and raise millions of dollars for the Near East Relief Foundation in support of Armenian orphans. The film combined footage from the Zoryan Institute’s interview of 1984 with the brilliant animation of Bars Media and their German and Lithuanian co-producers, along with scenes from the 1919 silent film “Auction of Souls”, the very first film on genocide in Hollywood starring Aurora Mardiganian as herself. The Institute’s intent with this film is 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 persecution and violence.
The screening was opened by Megan Reid, the Deputy Executive Director of the Zoryan Institute, who gave a brief description of the Zoryan Institute’s Armenian Genocide Oral History Collection and the film itself. It was followed by a discussion with Zoryan Institute’s Academic Board Member, Dr. Rouben Adalian, who interviewed Aurora Mardiganian in 1984 as part of the Institute’s Armenian Genocide Oral History Project. In his discussion, he elaborated on Aurora’s life, character, her vivacious spirit and early feminist outlook, and the immense impact that she had by working through her trauma to share her story with the world. During the question and answer period, the President and Co-Founder of the Zoryan Institute, K.M. Greg Sarkissian, joined Dr. Adalian on the stage and shared further insights into the creation of the Armenian Genocide Oral History Collection and the origins of Zoryan Institute’s partnership with film production company, Bars Media, to produce this film. He also shared his heartfelt sentiments on how the film impacted him personally as a child of Armenian Genocide survivors, his father being one of the orphans supported by Aurora Mardiganian’s efforts through the Near East Relief Foundation.
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 in over 20internationally renowned festivals around the world, with more to come. It has won nearly a dozen awards, including perhaps the most notable recognition, the Grand Prize at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) of Switzerland. The film is also highly ranked by some of the most influential film critics around the world.
The Zoryan Institute would like to thank the organizers of the 2023 Genocide Awareness Week, Dr. Alex Alvarez, Dr. Tim Langille, Dr. Volker Benkert, Dr. Hava Samuelson and Ambassador Ed O’Donnell, who invested so much into this week, and who made this screening possible. The Institute would also like to thank both the ASU and the Mirabella Lifelong Learning Center staff for all of their assistance throughout the week, and give a special thank you to the 2023 GAW sponsors and financial supporters of the conference.
Aurora’s Sunrise was made possible with the academic contribution of the Zoryan Institute Armenia and is based on its oral history archives. The film is directed by Inna Sahakyan, who demonstrates her sensitivity to fuse together this historical educational and entertainment project. The film is produced by Bars Media, led by Vardan Hovhannisyan, Gebrueder BeetzFilmproduktion & Artbox Laisvalaikio Klubas, with the financial partnership of Eurimages, the Zoryan Institute Armenia & the National Cinema Center of Armenia, and with the contributions of the Lithuanian Film Center, ZDF/ARTE, Public TV Armenia, and LRT.
Zoryan Institute, a non-profit organization, serves the cause of scholarship and public awareness relating to issues of universal human rights, genocide, and diaspora-homeland relations. This is done through the systematic continued efforts of scholars and specialists using a comparative and multidisciplinary approach and in accordance with the highest academic standards.