When the American-made motion picture Ravished Armenia was released in 1919, it became the first film to tell the story of the World War I Armenian Genocide through the eyes of a survivor, Aurora Mardiganian. Directed by Oscar Apfel and produced by early film pioneer Colonel William Selig, the eight-reel silent film was commissioned by the American Committee of Armenian and Syrian Relief (ACASR). The ACASR was established in the United States in 1915 in order to provide aid to victims of the Genocide. ACASR spokesperson Oliver Harriman, explained that the purpose of the movie was to acquaint viewers with ‘ravished Armenia’ and ‘to visualize conditions so that there will be no misunderstanding in the mind of any one about the terrible things which have transpired.’ The ‘screen was selected as the medium,’ she added, ‘because it reached the millions, where the printed word reaches the thousands.’
Ravished Armenia became a huge success with screenings throughout the United States, Europe, South America and as far away as Australia. To illustrate its ability to generate publicity and money for Armenian relief, ticket prices for its packed 12-day New York screenings were $10 each (about $150 in today’s terms) with the theatre’s seating capacity at approximately 1000 people. When the film premiered in Sydney on January 10, 1920, it drew such a strong crowd that ‘many hundreds’ had to be turned away.