In continuing the celebration of the first–ever Armenian History Month at USC, on April 17, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies and USC Armenian Students’ Association, in partnership with Bars Media and Zoryan Institute, hosted a theatrical screening and panel discussion of the animated documentary film Aurora’s Sunrise, which played at 70 festivals and won several prestigious awards. Co-sponsored by the Armenian Film Society and USC School of Cinematic Arts, the event brought together a diverse audience of students and community members. 

Aurora’s Sunrise tells the story of Armenian Genocide survivor Aurora Mardiganian’s journey to America, where she turned into a silent movie star through her efforts to raise awareness about the horrors of the Armenian Genocide. Combining animation with video testimony and archival footage, the film melds various mediums to illustrate the fragmented yet complex nature of Aurora’s story and the Armenian identity. 

In her opening remarks, Dr. Shushan Karapetian, Director of USC Dornsife Institute of Armenian Studies, commented upon the groundbreaking nature of this film and its relevance to Armenian History Month. 

Following Dr. Karapetian’s introduction, award-winning writer, director, and producer of Aurora’s Sunrise Inna Sahakyan thanked audiences for their support and discussed the importance of the film in a video message. With a focus on uncovering forgotten stories through intimate and innovative filmmaking, Sahakyan described the various obstacles she faced in bringing this film to life, from obtaining archival footage to pauses in production because of the pandemic and war in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). 

After the screening, a panel discussion was held with Dr. Shushan Karapetian, Ted Braun, USC Joseph Campell Endowed Chair in Cinematic Ethics, Armen Karaoghlanian, co-founder of Armenian Film Society, and Dr. Myran Douzjian, Lecturer of Armenian Studies, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UC Berkeley. 

The panelists engaged in an insightful conversation about how the fusion of diverse mediums within the film contributed to the nuances of Aurora’s story, the depiction of Genocide and its aftermath, and how filmmakers and artists often carry “a burden of proof” when telling a Genocide story.

Aurora’s Sunrise sheds light on an essential Armenian story that not only brings visibility to the Armenian community but also inspires the next generation of Armenian storytellers. The remarkable show out for Aurora’s Sunrise highlighted the continued engagement of students and community members in learning about the rich culture and heritage of Armenians during Armenian History Month.