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film “Aurora’s Sunrise” Illuminates the Armenian Genocide

An animated documentary film based on a true story, the film follows Aurora Mardiganian’s life during and just after the Armenian genocide.

Aurora's Sunrise,Smithsonian

This past week we were blessed to view an early release of “Aurora’s Sunrise” and meet its writer, producer, and director, Inna Sahakyan.

An animated documentary film based on a true story, “Aurora’s Sunrise” follows five years of Aurora Mardiganian’s life during and just after the Armenian genocide, which sent an estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million Armenians on death marches into the Syrian Desert in 1915 and 1916, ending 2,000 years of Armenian civilization in eastern Anatolia.

As many as 200,000 Armenian women and children were forcibly converted to Islam and integrated into Muslim households during the genocide. Very few of Aurora’s tight-knit family survived.

Using a compelling mix of animation, film clips from “Auction of Souls”—a wildly popular 1919 silent film Aurora Mardiganian made shortly after escaping to New York—and recovered clips of interviews she made near the end of her life in the 1970s, “Sunrise” offers the clearest insights imaginable into the horrors of the Armenian genocide.

According to writer, producer, and director Inna Sahakyan, today even young Armenians—in Armenia and around the world—know well the not yet fully acknowledged horrors their people suffered. Now, as “Sunrise” moves into theaters and will come to PBS in the fall, Inna is using this moving work to show new generations—not just Armenians, but all people—how events can turn in such ugly directions.

At one point in the recorded interviews, Aurora says the blind eye the world turned toward the Armenian genocide sent the message to Nazis two decades later that they could get a pass in murdering millions of Jews and others during their Holocaust—a note we should take in our era of anti-wokeness, anti-Black racism, antisemitism, anti-LGBT, anti, anti, anti.

After working for more than seven years to complete “Aurora’s Sunrise”—clearly a labor of love—Inna is turning now to a happier story about elderly Armenians in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, who are brightening their sunset years by performing Shakespearean plays.


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“Aurora’s Sunrise” is playing in theaters now.