A still from "Aurora's Sunrise"

‘Aurora’s Sunrise’ Animated Feature, Based on Genocide Survivor’s Story, to Be Shown in US, Canada


LOS ANGELES — Bars Media Films, the newly established branch in Los Angeles of Armenia’s largest independent documentary production company, is proud to announce its first-ever animated feature, which is also the first-ever animated documentary film made in Armenia, and Armenia’s Official Selection for 95th Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film, “Aurora’s Sunrise.”

Directed by Inna Sahakyan, “Aurora’s Sunrise” premiered in competition at Annecy IAFF2022 and then became a festival favorite winning more than 10 awards, including the Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2022 for Best Animated Film, Movies that Matter 2023 Audience Award and Special Mention Winner, Audience Favorites at IDFA 2022, Audience Awards at Animation is Film 2022 and FIFDH Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights 2023 for Grand Prix, among others. The film will soon have its North American theatrical release, opening Aug. 11 in New York City at Village East by Angelika and New Plaza Cinema, Aug. 18 in Los Angeles at Laemmle Glendale, Sept. 1 in Toronto at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, with director Inna Sahakyan in-person for Q&As at all three. The film will also roll out in other cities across the U.S. and Canada throughout August and the Fall.

The film started showing in New York City on August 11 and will to play at Village East Cinema and New Plaza Cinema for another week until August 24.

The film opens in Los Angeles at Laemmle Glendale on August 18, in Toronto at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on September 1 with the filmmaker in person for post screening conversation.

Starting August 25, it will expand to cities including, Portland, Oreg., Seattle, Beverly Hills, San Diego, Wilmette, Ill., Columbus, Ohio, Waterville, Maine, Montreal, Rhinebeck, NY, Washington, DC, Ann Arbor, Mich., Bryn Mawr, Penn., and Salem, Ma., and more. For tickets go to: https://documentarystudio.barsmedia.am/new-page-4

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In 1915, as WWI raged on, the Ottoman Empire singled out its entire Armenian population for destruction. Only 14 years old at the time, Aurora Mardiganian’s story was tragically relatable. Forced onto a death march towards the Syrian desert, she lost her entire family before being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Four years later, through luck and extraordinary courage, she escaped to New York, where her story became a media sensation. Starring as herself in the silent epic “Auction of Souls,” an early Hollywood blockbuster, Aurora became the face of one of the largest and most successful charity campaigns in American history, as one of the first women activists fighting against the injustices of war. With a blend of vivid animation, interviews with Aurora herself, and 18 minutes of surviving re-discovered footage from her lost silent epic, “Aurora’s Sunrise” revives a forgotten story of survival, hope and the endurance of the human spirit.

“The Armenian Genocide is the enduring pain of my nation,” said Sahakyan. “I was afraid of telling stories that only confirmed Armenians as a nation of victims with no historical agency and nothing but tragedy running through our veins. That is, until I stumbled upon an interview with Aurora Mardiganian while going through archival interviews with Armenian Genocide survivors at the Zoryan Institute. Through her words and expressions, an incredible but ordinary heroism shone: this woman survived a genocide but refused to be a victim. This is the character I wanted to build in ‘Aurora’s Sunrise,’ resilient, powerful and heartwarming all at once.”

A still from “Aurora’s Sunrise”

Sahakyan has directed and produced feature-length documentaries, documentary series and shorts, for over 15 years. Following her feature-length debut co-directing the award-winning “Armenia’s Last Tightrope Dancer” in 2010, she directed “Mel” and “Aurora’s Sunrise,” completing both international co-productions in 2022. Inna also enjoys mentoring her native Armenia’s next generation of filmmakers.

Atom Egoyan (Director, “Ararat”) & Arsinée Khanjian (Star, “Ararat”) released a quote about the film: “A beautifully made film…captures the spirit and extraordinary scale of an unimaginable journey…a very powerful story of horror, survival and a most moving act of sharing…made with great artistry and attention to detail. Highly recommended!”

Bars Media documentary film studio was formed in 1993 by Vardan Hovhannisyan, a frontline-filmmaker who began his career covering the dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union as a stringer for 24 hour news outlets. Created out of the need to tell honest stories in the chaos following Armenia’s independence, Bars Media became one of the country’s first independent film production companies, and to this day specializes in creating documentaries that tell human stories about conflict, culture, history and pressing social issues. Bars Media’s feature-length and short documentaries have been broadcast with BBC (UK), ARTE (France-Germany), WDR (Germany), PBS (US), NHK (Japan), NPO (Netherlands), YLE (Finland), Al Jazeera English (Qatar) among others. Located in Armenia, the studio is uniquely positioned at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, giving it a unique vantage point for discovering and uncovering a broad range of breathtaking stories from across the region and beyond. In 2023, Bars Media Films opened a new branch in Los Angeles to continue to bring the Armenian filmmaking lineage into the Western hemisphere.

The 2022 film is a joint production of Armenia, Germany and Lithuania. It was made possible with the academic contribution of the Zoryan Institute and is based on its Oral History Archive.

For more information, visit www.aurorassunrise.com.

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