YEREVAN — At only 14 years old, in 1915, Aurora Mardiganian faced the horrors of the Armenian genocide. Within a year, witnessing the death of all of her family members, Aurora had lost everything and was sold to a Turkish harem. But with extraordinary courage and luck, she fled to America, where her story caused a stir. Zoryan Institute’s goal with this film is to bring ZI’s Oral History Testimonies to life on the big screen, through animated documentary films, to convey the stories of Genocide survivors to younger generations, especially girls and empower them, and represent their communities in the face of great adversity and violence.

In 2015, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Zoryan Institute signed a partnership agreement with Bars Media of Armenia to produce the animated documentary based on Mardiganian’s testimony. “Aurora’s Sunrise” was made possible through the academic contribution of the Zoryan Institute of Armenia, based on its oral history archive (filmed by the Zoryan Institute on January 29, 1984).

The film is directed by Inna Sahakyan and produced by Bars Media, directed by Vardan Hovhannisyan, Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion and Artbox Laisvalaikio Klubas, with the financial partnership of Eurimages, the Zoryan Institute Armenia and the National Center of Cinema of Armenia, and with the contribution of Lithuanian Film Center, ZDF/ARTE, Public TV Armenia and LRT.

The Zoryan Institute is delighted that 40 years after the launch of the Armenian Genocide Oral History Project, which collected testimonies from survivors of the 1915 Genocide on 4 continents, the great-grandchildren of those who lived through the Genocide experience life before, during and after the genocide through a film that seamlessly blends a mix of footage from the Zoryan Institute’s original live interview with Aurora and the brilliant animation of Bars Media and their German and Lithuanian co-producers, as well as scenes from the 1919 silent film “Auction of Souls” (with Aurora Mardiganian prepared by Near East Relief).

“Great credit goes to the founders and staff of the Zoryan Institute at the time (early 1980s), who contextualized and carried out the Armenian Genocide Oral History Project, collecting over 3000 hours of testimonies from oral history of over 780 survivors between the ages of 70 and 90. The project was a major financial undertaking, with the audio-visual equipment alone costing the equivalent of nearly half a million US dollars in today’s dollars today, employing a workforce to conduct interviews, in cities across Europe, the Middle East and North America,” the Institute says.

More than 100 standardized questionnaires were used, developed by a multidisciplinary team of ZI experts, which enabled the Institute to extract information on social, economic, political and cultural practices before, during and after the genocide to capture commonalities and patterns. Since the launch of its Armenian Genocide Oral History Project, the Institute has worked continuously and systematically to protect, digitize and index its archival collection of over 780 oral history testimonies, to ensure that the image quality is maintained and usable for movies like Aurora Sunrise.