Aurora’s Sunrise Image

Aurora’s Sunrise

By Bradley Gibson | August 10, 2023

Near the end of her life, 70 years later, Mardiganian revealed to film historian Anthony Slide that the crucifixion scene was inaccurate. She described what was actually an impalement. She stated that “The Turks didn’t make their crosses like that. The Turks made little pointed crosses. They took the clothes off the girls. They made them bend down, and after raping them, they made them sit on the pointed wood through the vagina. That’s the way they killed – the Turks. Americans have made it a more civilized way. They can’t show such terrible things.”

Sahakyan made brilliant choices in crafting Aurora’s Sunrise. She and co-writers Peter Liakhov and Kerstin Meyer-Beetz faced obstacles that made this story difficult to tell. Aurora Mardiganian died in 1994, though there is footage of her talking about her experiences. To further complicate the challenge, all copies of the full-length Auction of Souls were thought to be lost to time. Only a restored and edited 20-minute segment from one surviving reel of the 90-minute feature exists. It was released in 2009 by the Armenian Genocide Resource Center of Northern California.

The animation is beautifully done…”

To fill in the rest, Sahakyan made most of the documentary animated. The animation is beautifully done, with striking color and simplicity. This technique was used to great effect in Flee, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. It presents a similar story of a man called Amin Nawabi, who shares he escaped Afghanistan. Animation gave Sahakyan the latitude to depict events of the genocide without the need to re-enact them. The animated sections are integrated with historic newsreel footage, clips from the surviving footage of Auction of Souls, and interviews with Mardiganian and other genocide survivors.

Turkey still denies that the genocide ever occurred and, as a nation, was never held to account. The Turks have gone to great lengths to twist the narrative of the genocide, including funding propaganda films. The point is made that had the world responded to the genocide, Hitler might have been slower to implement his own “final solution” later in WWII. That didn’t happen, and Turkey got away with it, which provided a potential template for Germany’s slaughter of 6 million Jews.

Aurora’s Sunrise is well made and, as such, not easy to watch. It beautifully documents two stories of Aurora Mardiganian in her escape from the Armenian Genocide.

Aurora's Sunrise (2023)

Directed: Inna Sahakyan

Written: Peter Liakhov, Kerstin Meyer-Beetz, Inna Sahakyan

Starring: Aurora Mardiganian, Anzhelika Hakobyan, Arpi Petrossian, Shushan Abrahamyan, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Aurora's Sunrise Image

"…well made and, as such, not easy to watch."

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