YEREVAN—The Zoryan Institute is pleased to announce that the animated film Aurora sunrise was presented in the international competition of the 19th Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival. The film was screened on July 14, 2022 in Yerevan, Armenia.

Aurora sunrise is a historical animated documentary film about the life of Aurora Mardiganian, survivor of the Armenian Genocide, who shared her courageous story of survival with the world, raising millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for post-genocide survivors. The Zoryan Institute’s goal with this animated film is to bring the story of an incredible survivor from its collection of oral histories to life on the big screen, to empower young women and girls to portray their communities in the face of great adversity and violence.

This documentary film was made possible thanks to the financial partnership of Eurimages, as well as the majority participation and the financial partnership of the “Armenian Group”, composed of the Zoryan Institute Armenia, the National Center of Cinema of Armenia and Media bars. The film is based on Mardiganian’s audio-visual oral history testimony given to the Zoryan Institute in 1984 and was made possible through the academic contribution of the Zoryan Institute.

The film is directed by Inna Sahakyan and produced by Bars Media, Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion & Artbox Laisvalaikio Klubas, with contributions from the Lithuanian Film Center, ZDF/ARTE, Public TV Armenia and LRT.

Atom Egoyan, honorary president of the festival, had this to say about Mardiganian in the preface to the 2014 edition of Armenia delighted and the story of Aurora Mardiganian: What makes Aurora a super survivor is that she not only witnessed the elimination of her family and community, but also inspired a dramatic narrative of that experience…Aurora Lived the experience of the genocide, lived the experience of making a film about the genocide, and then I witnessed the effective disappearance of the two events – one by the denial of the authors, the other by the physical laws of movie itself.

Nearly 40 years ago, the Zoryan Institute made an investment to conduct interviews with Armenian Genocide survivors with technologies considered ultra-modern at the time: video recording. This medium not only captured the voices of survivors, but also their presence, expressions and raw emotions. It was the first oral history project to do so, and it made a huge contribution to preserving an invaluable part of the experience and history of the Armenian people. The animated film allows the public to visualize all the elements confined to the imagination when viewing these recordings. Seeing the Genocide experience unfold on the big screen will make Aurora’s incredible story eternally accessible.

Aurora sunrise isn’t the only film based on the Zoryan Institute’s oral history archives. The success of PBS in 1988 An Armenian journey by award-winning documentary filmmaker and former president of the Zoryan Institute, Theodore Bogosian, features 70-year-old Mariam Davis, who has returned to eastern Turkey for the first time since she was 10 years old. Davis was the first Armenian Genocide survivor whom the Zoryan Institute had the pleasure of interviewing for its Armenian Genocide Oral History Program in 1983.

Dr. Rouben Adalian, Zoryan Institute board member who interviewed Aurora in 1984, concluded a recent interview with the Zoryan Institute by stating: “[Aurora] was clearly someone who already knew how to tell his story. She taught us, and me personally, that as a researcher you can be armed with all kinds of questions, to try to present the facts in a scientific way, but a survivor with the energy and personality of Aurora could tell his story in his own way, and our obligation was to listen more than ask questions.

Dr. Adalian also highlighted the incredible legacy that Aurora is passing on to future generations and now sharing with the rest of the world. “I think it’s Aurora’s spirit, her energy, her ability to share her story… that now [led to this film] that future generations can analyze and draw inspiration from history that previous generations may not have noticed. This is Aurora’s legacy. This is the value of this interview. It was the unprecedented and important contribution that the Zoryan Institute made when I sat down with this survivor, as with many other survivors, but in this case, with a woman whose name signified the very dawn that enlightens the fact that about how important it was to talk to survivors and save their stories.

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The Zoryan Institute and its subsidiary, the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, is a non-profit organization that serves the cause of scholarship and public awareness of issues of universal human rights, genocide and diaspora-homeland relations. This is done through the systematic ongoing efforts of scholars and specialists using a comparative and multidisciplinary approach and in accordance with the highest academic standards.

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