Kannan Arunasalam

Kannan is a British–Sri Lankan documentary filmmaker.

Kannan’s work has appeared in The Guardian, The New Yorker, Upworthy, Engadget, TechCrunch, Buzzfeed, AOL Studios, in addition to broadcasts on BBC and Al Jazeera English. In 2013, he was awarded best documentary short for Kerosene (16 mins) at the Seattle South Asian International Documentary Festival and in 2014, given the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation’s best documentary short prize for The Story of One (19 mins). His films have screened at international film festivals and art museums, including Neuberger Museum of Art, N.Y. (2014); Rubin Museum of Art, N.Y.C. (2015); Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2016); Dhaka Art Summit (2018); and selected for Film South Asia’s Travelling Film Festivals (2011, 2013, 2015). Kannan is a director at the Los Angeles based production company, Stateless Media that produces its signature shortreals for online platforms.

Kannan has over 7 years of experience in media production working for a variety of clients and under different grants, including the Ford Foundation (2009), the US State Department (2010-2013) and the Mellon Foundation (2016). In addition, he has 12 years of experience of working in media restrictive, conflict and post-conflict environments, during which he conceptualised and developed award-winning new media narrative projects. He studied Psychology at the University of Cambridge (1992-95) and International Human Rights at the University of Oxford (2007-08), focusing on media and conflict. Kannan is also a qualified media and human rights lawyer. In 2015, he was a visiting lecturer at Cornell University, N.Y., teaching a course on media representations of the Sri Lankan conflict.

Kannan is based in Colombo and London and is available to work internationally.


Myanmar: Portraits of Diversity, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 15 April 2015

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Screening of my short films on religious co-existence with the amazing Buddhist monk, the Venerable Tayzar Dipati, leading the discussion. Myanmar: Portraits of Diversity, Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th St. New York, NY 10011 on 15 April 2015

USIP screening of Myanmar Portraits of Diversity, Washington DC, 9 April 2015

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Special screening organised by United States Institute for Peace (USIP) of Myanmar Portraits of Diversity, “Burma’s Peace Potential: Portraits of Diversity”, U.S. Institute of Peace 2301 Constitution Ave. NW Washington, DC, 9 April 2015

‘News from Jaffna’ commissioned by Al Jazeera English, broadcast on 29 September 2014


‘News from Jaffna’ (25 mins) was commissioned by the Al Jazeera Witness team under its Viewfinder Asia programme, and first broadcast on 29 September 2014. A young reporter dares to cover press freedom in one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists – Sri Lanka.

Screenings and Q&A, ‘New South Asian Documentary: On and Off Screen’, New York University, 25-27 September 2015

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Screening/Presentation: A selection of work by Kannan Arunasalam followed by Q&A with Kannan Arunasalam and Vasuki Nesiah (Gallatin Human Rights Initiative). ‘New South Asian Documentary: On and Off Screen’, New York University, New York, 25-27 September 2015

‘The Story of One’ selected for Travelling Film South Asia, 2014

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After each FSA festival, a package of 8-10 films are selected to travel across the Subcontinent and the world as the at more than 50 international venues”>Travelling Film Southasia (TFSA) package.’The Story of One’ also won the inaugural Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation grant prize for documentary film in 2013.

‘The Singing Fish of Batticaloa’, BBC Radio 4

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The search for an elusive watery wonder in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war. Broadcast Monday 28th July 2014, 11:00 am Produced by Cicely Fell and Kannan Arunasalam Photography by Kannan Arunasalam, Cicely Fell, Thangavel Sakthiyalingam Music By Adam Nicholas A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

Review of ‘I Am’ in New York Times, 7 February 2014

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“For viewers halfway around the world, “I Am” offers both a rich portrait of a region through the eyes of its elders, as well as a reminder of how, when racial or ethnic differences are put in the foreground, they overshadow both public and private life. Kannan Arunasalam is a Sri Lankan-born artist who grew [...]

I AM project exhibited at Neuburger Museum of Art, Purchase, N.Y., January 4 – March 16, 2014

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The exhibition of twenty international artists and thirty artworks explores how artists express their individual and collective identities, and the relationships among memory, document, and fiction. The mixed media exhibition presents work that uses online data, remembrance, handiwork, genetics, gaming, and Google to mark the discord, beauty and banality that occur each day.

Winner of the inaugural Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film annual prize for best documentary short, November 2013

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NEW YORK, NY –(Nov 19, 2013) – In its inaugural debut, The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film today awarded Sri Lankan journalist and filmmaker Kannan Arunasalam its first annual prize for best documentary ‘short-short’ film. “Rooted in reportage and traditional documentary filmmaking, Kannan’s film doesn’t try to tone down these atrocities. Instead, [...]

‘The Brothers Shaikh’, posted on The Guardian, 15 November 2013

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Our short film,’The Brothers Shaikh’, posted on The Guardian and voted its ‘Top Video’. A man searches for answers after his brother’s murder in Sri Lanka. Peter Savodnik, Kannan Arunasalam and Ed Perkins. Source: Stateless Media Length: 14min 40sec.