Courtesy of David Stanley
Toward the end of February, David Stanley ’23 stayed up late every night to work on his most recent project: “Save Myanmar,” a short video documenting a recent military coup and subsequent riots in his home country of Myanmar.
Earlier that month, Myanmar’s military detained democratically-elected members of the government and claimed power for itself. Since the coup, large-scale protests have taken place, during which hundreds of citizens have been killed.
“We may not be the wealthiest among other nations, but we have heart,” Stanley’s voiceover narrates in the video. “We have a heart none like others.”
Stanley, the first Burmese-Chin-American to attend an Ivy League school, immigrated to the United States as a refugee in 2007. He said his acceptance to Yale generated media attention in Myanmar, and that most people were surprised about his acceptance into a prestigious institution like Yale.
Because of the media attention Stanley received, he felt he had the unique opportunity to bring public attention to the events in Myanmar. Stanley began his project in February after speaking with his father about the political conditions in Myanmar.
Stanley said his father told him, “You have a very strong voice and platform; you should do something in your power, especially film because that’s what you do, to spread awareness.”
For three weeks after this conversation, Stanley worked on “Save Myanmar” with his close friend, Cameron Adams ’24.
Stanley said the project was “really dear to [his] heart” as it documented a dire situation in Myanmar. “This is life or death,” Stanley said. “And there are people going about their days without knowing about what is happening [in Myanmar].”
He reflected that, as an editor, the work was emotionally exhausting since the hundreds of clips depicting various elements of Myanmar’s history he sorted through were difficult to watch.
Adams said that it is always inspiring to work with Stanley on a project and see the “care and attention” he put into each decision, “especially when the project is as important as this one.”
Stanley began filmmaking during his sophomore year in high school, after joining the school’s yearbook club. Other videos on his YouTube channel document his daily life and cultural heritage, but this is his first project that relates to politics.
Hannah Leger, one of Stanley’s high school friends, said that when watching Stanley’s videos, a viewer is “immersed in a new experience” beyond what they believe is possible. Saket Gunda, another high school friend of Stanley’s, said that his videos are a testament to Stanley’s work ethic and drive.
Gunda said that Stanley would often film various events in high school, such as prom, and that he watched Stanley’s work evolve over the years. Gunda described Stanley’s films as “informational with a mix of storytelling.”
Stanley said that his project, “Save Myanmar,” showed him the power of film and of using his own voice in telling stories.
“That’s what really matters,” Stanley said. “Your own personal voice that you’re sharing with the world.”
Stanley said that what motivates him most is hearing about others being inspired by his work. He hopes these viewers will use their own voices to create something “bigger.”
On Monday, April 19, the Yale International Relations Association will welcome Stanley for a conversation on the coup and protests in Myanmar. Additional information and ways to help citizens in Myanmar can be found here.
Maia Decker | firstname.lastname@example.org