Kannan is a British–Sri Lankan documentary filmmaker. His work focuses on stories throughout Asia and has appeared in The Guardian, The New Yorker, Upworthy, Engadget, TechCrunch, Buzzfeed, AOL Studios, and broadcast on the BBC and Al Jazeera English. His films have screened at international film festivals and art galleries, including The Tetley, Leeds (2019); Dhaka Art Summit (2018); Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2016); Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2015); and Neuberger Museum of Art, New York (2014). Kannan is a director at the Los Angeles based production company, Stateless Media that produces its signature shortreals for online platforms. Kannan studied Psychology at the University of Cambridge, and International Human Rights at the University of Oxford, focusing on media. In 2015, he was a visiting lecturer at Cornell University, teaching a course on media representations of the Sri Lankan conflict. Kannan is also a qualified media lawyer.

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


The I Am project


‘I am’ is a multimedia project exploring identity through the lives of Sri Lankn elders. The project is now into its second series, and is collection of portraits in photography and sound of the experience and insights of wise men and women from Sri Lanka. The portraits include the 105-year old tobacco farmer who talks about his simple way of life in a village in Jaffna; the union leader who cannot see himself as a Tamil, but only as a “workers’ leader”; the activist who was born into the barber caste, but who struggled with discrimination and became a poet; the writer who speaks of discovering the Other within the caste system of Jaffna and then becoming one in the south; and the businessman who, like tens of thousands of other Muslims, was expelled from his hometown of Jaffna by the Tamil Tigers, and who returned to restart a new life there. The project was made possible through a grant by the US Embassy in Colombo.

The warrior queen, I Am project


Helga de Silva talks about growing up in the family home that would eventually become the sumptuous “Helga’s Folly”. She reflects on why people are drawn to her ‘anti-hotel’, a canvas for hers and her guests’ creativity.

The chief monk, I Am project


Venerable Walatara Sobhita Nayaka Thero remembers when Buddhist songs were sung by Muslim singers, and explains why appreciating music and being a monk are not mutually exclusive.

The Independent, I Am project

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Mrs Subramanium is the personal assistant to the head of one of Jaffna’s most popular newspaper. She reflects on her approach to life and death and why, despite the constant badgering from her diasporan family, she refuses to leave Jaffna.



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.