The Other Side of Animation 280: Aurora’s Sunrise Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Content Warning: There will be scenes of real life dead bodies, graphic violence, and assault

Do you know what has been a cool thing to happen with animation recently? How it was able to help bring back what was lost media and give it new life, or how it’s able to tell a different kind of story, like following the life of someone with a very rich history. If animation “fans” want to say they support new and distinct ways of telling stories through the medium, then that means you need to support and watch stuff like today’s review of Aurora’s Sunrise, which has been making its festival runs through some major places like Annecy and Animation is Film, where it took home the audience award over films like Titina, My Father’s Dragon, Little Nicholas, and Wendell & Wild. Seeing audiences for this festival choosing something so different was definitely a surprise. Then again, it was one of the few sold-out screenings at the festival. So, what is the film all about? 

Directed by Inna Sahakyan, this documentary animated feature follows the story of Arshaluys Mardiganian aka Aurora Mardiganian, her experience of surviving a multitude of horrors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and her journey to America to tell her story, only to have to deal with a different kind of horror of dealing with Hollywood execs. It’s a combination of live-action footage of people interviewing Arshaluys, some actual found footage of the Auction of Souls film that was said to be lost to time, and animation that looks like it uses something akin to puppet or motion tween rigs to tell the majority of the story. It won’t be an easy sit, as the story of Arshaluys is a tragic one of losing her entire family, being sold into slavery, and escaping the horrors for a small moment in time, but only to find herself with another set of challenges. That’s even before arriving in America and dealing with an entirely different set of abuse and challenges. It’s a tough watch, but it’s fascinating to observe how she strived and survived, even when she was in Hollywood, where they censored or changed what actually happened to her. She wanted to help tell the story of what was going on, but they weren’t willing to share all of the details and so changed them for an American audience to consume. There was even one point where I don’t even know how it wouldn’t make your blood boil. Even if it ended on a positive note of change making the world better for individuals affected by genocide and horrible events, what happened to her by people she trusted will make you despise the darkness in some people’s heart. It’s all interesting and eye-opening stuff to what was going on during that point in history, but you can definitely tell this was directed by someone who has mostly worked on documentaries. The story and plot play out in a very narrative-driven way of telling the details, and while they do have actors who portray young Arshaluys and so on, if you have seen any documentaries, you know how they don’t really follow a 3-act structure or a traditional film narrative. They mostly use the runtime to fill up the details of what exactly was going on. It can be a bit tough to sit through all of the details and history notes, but it’s really more so in the pacing due to how this film is 90 minutes long. It wants to be very atmospheric to let you soak up the mood of the sequences and the quiet moments, but it can feel a bit slow. Still, it’s more the fact this is such a harrowing and depressing story of Arhslauys’ history and the genocide that was happening. It just has trouble at times working as both a documentary and as a film. 




The animation does look good. The only times where it was a touch distracting was any time they used motion blurs to mimic fast movements. It looked a bit clunky, but the visuals themselves look fantastic. The painted look of everything gives the film a distinct visual flair that matches the tone of the story, and while they are definitely using plenty of tricks and work-arounds to make it look good to keep you captivated by the story being told, they definitely help show you the horrors that unfold. They show the beauty and darkness of history and the journey one person took to tell her story. The acting was a mixed bag, though to be honest, it’s mostly in terms of when anyone speaks English in the film. When they have American individuals, the acting sounds flat. At least, that is what it sounds like. You can tell the focus was more on telling the story than having compelling performances. 



While maybe not a recurring rewatchable kind of animated feature that some are, Aurora’s Sunrise is one of those animated features that focuses more on the documentary side of things rather than telling a story in a more filmlike way. Seeing more mature stories being told in animation means getting films like this. It’s important to see stories like this one told because it’s our world’s history, and to see a piece of filmmaking history get partly restored and preserved is something to treasure. You can not deny or ignore when such world-changing events and stories happen. It’s a shame that there are already some stories and films that are lost to time. Hopefully, Aurora’s Sunrise gets some proper US release/distribution, because films that are interesting to talk about are worthy of being remembered. We all need to remember the history of our world, whether it’s the darkest of times or the sunrise that shows us the beauty of our world. Definitely give this one a watch if you find it at a festival (it’s playing at the Asian World Film Festival nov 10th and 14th, IDFA, and Tallinn Black Nights) or when it becomes available to rent or own via a physical release or a digital one. Now then, next time, we will talk about something a bit lighter in tone, but remember, animation is a medium of storytelling and art. Animation is film, and animation can tell stories like Aurora’s Sunrise.

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 249: Flee Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Neon. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Neon for this opportunity.

When you watch the film festival scene, there are always going to be films that take up the spotlight. It doesn’t matter if the end product is actually well received outside of film festival circles, once they catch the hype bug, the hype doesn’t stop, no matter what films they compete against in any other festivals in which they are played. It’s a shame, because it does seem like film festival reactions tend to skew the reactions of the film, and once it shows up in one festival and wins the main prize, it’s going to do so over and over again until it gets its full non-festival release. It even happens if a lot of the films were better received outside the festival circuit. Anyway, this isn’t an editorial talking about the dread and nauseous issues with film festival reactions, but instead about one of the films that have swept awards left and right as it journeys across state and country lines to become one of the biggest films of 2021, Flee

Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, this story follows Amin Nawabi, who tells his recently untold history of fleeing Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee. The documentary and interview follow the challenges, the scares, the life-changing moments, and the journey of who he is throughout the voyage. 

Let’s talk about the film’s animation first. This has been a real contingent point for viewers and critics about how the animation is not up to par with other animated films. Yes, the film’s animated visuals are mostly higher quality animatics for the movements with fewer frames and some are very much just storyboard stills. If you had to compare it to another film’s animation style, it’s similar to how Josep executed its visuals.That’s why many prefer it as a documentary rather than an animated film. Honestly, the animation has such an atmosphere and is drenched in such emotional vibes that it works more in its favor than if it had something akin or similar to a more traditional 2D animated feature. People seem to forget that many of these projects from overseas don’t always get the biggest budgets. Plus, if the visuals still give you the intended mood, then who cares if it doesn’t have super crisp Akira-style animation. The acting is pretty solid, but the best parts are where Amin is talking with the interviewer or his boyfriend about the story, and it has a lot of shades of the Story Corp discussions since those are all animated shorts and stories about people with a story that is important to them. 

Plus, this is a dark story. The fact that all of this stuff about people just struggling to survive from war and violence is still going on today. It’s a film that really gives you a reset about what you are dealing with as you watch our lead’s journey and the hoops they had to jump through, the horrors that they have seen, the violence, and you get the idea. The story even follows the aftermath of his journey and the psychological and emotional turmoil that has affected his relationships and his current mindset. It’s a documentary that has a more human side to the overall story, and it reminds you that the people who are dealing with these horrific incidents and their journey for safety are human. It’s a story that hits hard, due to everything that is going on these past few years. 

While the hype for this film is mostly worth it, the film itself would have been great even without the hype from its many wins during the festival circuit. It’s a powerful and intimate journey through one person’s survival and the experience that led him to become the person he is now. It’s an extremely touching film that whenever Neon decides to expand its wide release, everyone should go watch it. It’s not the flashiest animation-wise, and you will definitely feel uneasy about the world and how some of these horrific events happen, but sometimes, you just need a good dose of reality and to remember that this is going on in the real world and beyond your TV screens. Now then, next time, we are going to talk about the Netflix mini-series, The House

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!