UW Libraries e-news
June 2011 |  Return to issue home

Meet Ashley Siverly, Student Scholarship Award Winner

Read the essay that helped Ashley Siverly win a 2011 UW Libraries Student Employee Scholarship:

Ashley Siverly, left, and Amy Halligan
Libraries scholarship award winner Ashley Siverly, left, and Media Center supervisor Amy Halligan

One day while shelving DVDs, I noticed that film Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country. Immediately, I was interested in the cover art which illustrates a group of monks seen through the screen of a camcorder. Because this DVD had no synopsis on the back over, I was curious as to what this image meant. Intrigued, I checked it out and took it home.

Burma VJ starts with a simple example of oppression in Burma. A man peacefully holding a sign in protest is confronted by two men who take his sign, force him into a car and drive away. This example is typical of the many atrocities documented throughout the film; any expression of disapproval towards the government is quickly and forcibly quieted. The film is a documentary told from the perspective of a single member of a small group of journalists called the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB). The group is small because the use of cameras is illegal in this country. As the film progresses, it becomes apparent that this law is enforced in order to cover up the forceful repression of the people.

The film is told through video clips secretly taken of the Myanmar protests of 2007. These protests include the marching of the monks of Burma, an impressive demonstration of peaceful protest. These marches however, which only consisted of walking and chanting, were eventually brought to an end. The government raided the monk’s temple, destroying their monastery, beating the monks and arresting all who could not escape. The narrator voices the fear of the people by describing his and other members of the DVB’s account of the events. The DVB illegally accessed Burma’s satellite system to broadcast the footage to the other parts of the world. It was one of the few documentations of what was going on in Burma at the time. At the conclusion of the film three members of the DVB are arrested and awaiting trial while the other members have escaped into hiding.

From this film I have realized that I am too self-absorbed with my personal conflicts, things which seem so meaningless when compared to the atrocities of Burma. I have learned to be aware of exaggerating my own personal problems. Even now while I write, I am aware that although this essay is currently my greatest worry, people around the world would not be allowed to voice their opinion in this way. Working at the Media Center, a place dedicated to expression through films and other works, makes the idea of a country without cameras incomprehensible. By providing this film, the Media Center has allowed me to experience another way of life; something the people of Burma may never be capable of doing. Self-expression and opinion is not acceptable in Burma, something I take for granted every day.

Other essay award winners are: Whitney Chamberlin, Diedre Girard, Naomi Joswiak, Joshua Lee, Carlos Madrid, Konrad Palubicki, Molly Riley, Marie Spiker, and Megan Willan. Each winner received a $1,000 scholarship at a reception on May 25.

The Student Employee Scholarship Program is supported by generous donors and is administered by Libraries Organization Development and Training, and the Libraries Advancement Office.

June 2011  |  Return to issue home

University of Washington Libraries, Campus Box 352900, Seattle, WA 98195-2900
© 2008-2011 University of Washington  | Contact Us  | Privacy Policy