Director: Inna Sahakyan Script: Peter Liakhov, Kerstin Meyer-Beetz, Mother Sahakyuan| Cast: Anzhelika Hakobyan (Aurora), Shushan Abrahamyan (Lusineh), Arpi Petrossian (Aurora (trunk)), Ervin Amiryan (Henry Gates), Sara Anjargolian (Mrs. Harriman), ea | Time to play: 96 minutes | Year: 2022
The Armenian Genocide began in 1915, killing over a million Armenians. Although animation has rarely been used to portray this historic event, director Inna Sahakyan believes that it is a powerful means of dealing with something as difficult as trauma. Shows with a unique animation style aurora dawn this black page of Armenian history through the eyes of a young woman who has to leave everything behind.
Sahakyan tells the Armenian Genocide through the eyes of Aurora Mardigianian. The fourteen-year-old girl has to flee when her town is attacked and she ends up in the United States with the help of her uncle. She here she quickly attracts the attention of the film producers of the emerging Hollywood of the early twentieth century. Her tragic past appears in the newspaper and then on the big screen: soul auctiona mega-hit in which he also plays the title role.
Despite being a documentary, the film is disguised more as a gripping historical drama. However, it brings you back to reality through archival footage of interviews with Aurora and snippets of soul auction. This switch between animation and stock footage ensures that the emotional charge of important moments comes through very strongly. Therefore, the writers do not seem afraid to show various horrors of this genocide in animated form. As Aurora describes how many women have been raped and their families murdered, you see snippets of these events that turn your stomach. The effect of these tragic events can be seen in both the animated version of young Aurora and the real old Aurora.
This alternation between animation and archival material is certainly necessary. Although the watercolor style produces very beautiful and moving images, the unrealistic wood movements sometimes take you out of the story. The faces of the animated characters aren’t always easy to read either, so a scene can sometimes (unintentionally) appear creepy.
The animated film is at its best when there is as little movement as possible and the animation becomes almost a frame, supported by a story. These frames are very beautiful due to the addition of red silk that symbolizes loss throughout the film. With this symbolism, the documentary makes a mixture between reality and fantasy, which reflects very well how a child can deal with trauma like this.
The splendor of the watercolor style and the archival images somewhat obscure the message. Because what does Sahakyan really want to achieve with his documentary? Did he want to map the Armenian Genocide? Does it tell the story of a girl who against all odds became a movie star? Or maybe shed light on the cold Hollywood way of doing business? The answer is probably all, but in just an hour and a half, not everything goes smoothly.