Aurora’s Sunrise

Her harrowing tale of survival became a best-selling book and blockbuster film in the 1920s, Hollywood’s Golden Age. Aurora Madriganian survived the Armenian genocide under the Ottoman Empire when, in the shadow of World War I, the young Turkish regime began to get rid of “treacherous nationalities”. Millions of Armenian Christians were killed. The young woman, a refugee, a contemporary witness, an activist in Hollywood, dedicated her life to fight for dignity of herself and her people. The film, made of exclusive interviews, animation and the last surviving excerpts from the fiction film, tells the story of a heroine whose mission is still part of contemporary history.

Aurora’s Sunrise

She is a best-selling author, a Hollywood sensation, a teenage survivor of Armenian genocide. She is Aurora Madriganian, the girl who brought her people’s tragedy to the world.

Los Angeles, 1919, Hollywood’s Golden Age. Posters of Auction of Souls, the first blockbuster about Armenian genocide, were seen across the streets of the metropolis. The film became a box office success, a sensation with profits around 30 million dollars. Aurora Madriganian – the film is based on her best-selling autobiographical book – also played the leading role. It is the start of her Hollywood career, it is her will to tell the world of the atrocities she witnessed under the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

Born in the Turkish province of Tunceli, Aurora lost her family and her homeland as a teenage girl, when in 1915 the young Turkish regime began to get rid of “treacherous nationalities”. Millions of Christian Armenians were killed, among them Aurora’s father and brother in front of her eyes. She herself was kidnapped by slave traders during the death march in the Syrian desert, then sold to a Turkish harem. Only her fighting spirit saved her from death. She escaped to St. Petersburg in Revolutionary Russia and immigrated to the United States later.

Aurora’s Sunrise will be composed of three different visual elements: documentary footage (interviews, archive material), animation and exclusive excerpts from Auction of Souls. The film is considered lost. Only several years ago, a 20-minute cut was discovered in an old Russian archive.

The film tells the story of a refugee, a survivor and an activist in Hollywood whose life ended in 1994 in Los Angeles where she is buried with dozens of others in a pauper’s grave. This work is the rediscovery of the patroness of the international Aurora Prize for outstanding humanitarian work, co-chaired by George Clooney, whose wife Amal Alamuddin represented Armenia to fight for the recognition of genocide at the European Court of Human Rights in 2015. The genocide is still being denied by Erdoğan’s government.

Director: Inna Sahakyan
Producers: Vardan Hovhannisyan, Christian Beetz

With academic contribution of the Zoryan Institute and based on its Oral History Archive