“Auction of Souls”: A Pioneering Depiction of the Armenian Genocide

Released in 1918, “Auction of Souls” is the first film that explores the Armenian Genocide, a horrific event during World War I that claimed the lives of approximately 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Directed by Oscar Apfel and produced by the American film company Metro Goldwyn Meer, the movie was screened in various cities across the United States, Latin America, Great Britain, and France.

The Premiere

The Plaza Hotel in New York hosted the premiere of “Auction of Souls” on February 16, 1919. The film was made in the United States with the support of the American government at the time and featured the participation of Arshaluys Martikanyan, an Armenian Genocide survivor.

Based on True Events

“Auction of Souls” is adapted from Martikanyan’s memoir, “Ravished Armenia,” which recounts the harrowing experiences she witnessed during the genocide. Despite its basis on real events, the film faced censorship in the United States and the United Kingdom due to political interests that took precedence over human values.

Lost and Found

The film’s screening was limited and censored in some countries, leading to its eventual disappearance. For nearly 80 years, critics searched for the lost film. In 1994, Argentine Armenian Eduard Gozalyan discovered a partial copy of the film, which is now preserved in the Museum-Institute of the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan.

The film’s original runtime was 85 minutes, but only a 25-minute fragment has survived. It is believed that the film may have been intentionally destroyed.

Subtitles and Preservation

The film was subtitled in English and later in French and Armenian. A list of English subtitles is preserved in the Margaret Herrick Library of the American Film Academy. These subtitles were published in Anthony Slide’s book, “Armenia Ravaged and the History of Aurora (Arshaluys – the Armenian version of Aurora) Martikanyan,” released by Scarecrow Press in 1997.

“Auction of Souls” remains a significant cultural artifact, representing the first cinematic attempt to document the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide. Its existence, despite the challenges it faced, underscores the importance of preserving historical memory and amplifying the voices of those who have experienced unimaginable suffering.

P.S Unfortunately YouTube blocks the distribution of the film due to age restrictions. Visiting YouTube is the only way to watch a surviving copy of the film. The title of the movie with the attached link is posted below.

Vigen Avetisyan

RAVISHED ARMENIA by Arshaluys Mardiganian – 1919, MGM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *