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.




During the 1980s, a team of doctors led by Dr Sivarajah discovered an increasing number of cases of leprosy in the village of Kartupolam in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka. This video portrait tells the story of how community medicine and “koothu”, a kind of traditional street theatre, helped the community overcome ignorance and isolation.

Disappearing people, The State We’re In, Radio Netherlands Worldwide


The “Kaffirs” are a little-known minority within Sri Lanka who are on the verge of disappearing. Yet their music and culture are suddenly popular in the country’s mainstream. Contributor Kannan Arunasalam finds out why.

Caste matters, The State We’re In, Radio Netherlands Worldwide


Kannan Arunasalam was born in Sri Lanka, but brought up in the UK. When he moved back to Sri Lanka, he confronted the caste divisions he was taught not to heed. Kannan taped his encounters with people from higher and lower castes in Colombo, offering a rare peek inside a world that’s usually closed to outsiders.

Peacetime perils for the Palmyrah tree, Earth Beat, Radio Netherlands Worldwide


Decades of war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers wreaked havoc on the country and devastated an all-important tree known as the Palmyrah. So people were hoping that in peacetime, the Palmyra would once again flourish. Instead, peace has created a whole new threat to this icon of Tamil culture. Kannan Arunasalam comments from Jaffna in Sri Lanka.

God of war and peace, The State We’re In, Radio Netherlands Worldwide


Kannan Arunasalam goes on a pilgrimage with an elderly aunt to a Sri Lankan Hindu shrine. It attracts people of all faiths, but some fear it is increasingly overtaken with Buddhist trappings, revealing the political fissures in Sri Lanka.

The tobacco farmer, I Am project

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At 105 years of age, Veerakathy may be the oldest man in Jaffna. The tobacco farmer from Velanai has already outlived six of his sons. He talks about a Jaffna way of life that has helped him live a very long life.