KANNAN ARUNASALAM

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 new 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.

Portfolio

New film: ‘The Brothers Shaikh’ posted on The New Yorker, 24 July 2013

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The new film I co-directed about the killing of British tourist Khuram Shaikh in Sri Lanka, was posted on The New Yorker, 24 July 2013. The Brothers Shaikh, produced and reported by Peter Savodnik, directed and filmed by Kannan Arunasalam and Ed Perkins. A Stateless Media Production.

‘Paper’ screened at Guggenheim Museum, New York, April 2013

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My documentary short Paper was screened as part of a lecture on South Asian contemporary art, Guggenheim Museum, New York, April 2013

‘Kerosene’ wins best documentary short, SAID 2013, Seattle, USA

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My film ‘Kerosene’ (16 mins) is the winner of the Prism award for best documentary short at the Seattle South Asian International Documentary Festival 2013.

Talk: ‘Expressions of Identity’, Royal Commonwealth Society, London

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Invited to share some of my work at this event in London organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, International Alert and Voices for Reconciliation; chaired by George Alagiah and speaking alongside the writer Roshi Fernando and playwright Prassanna Puwanarajah.

‘Kerosene’ film screened at 8th Aljazeera International Documentary Film Festival 2012

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Short documentary film (16 mins) in competition at annual Aljazeera film festival in Doha, April 2012.

Press / Reviews / Recommendations

“The Tent is his first gallery exhibition and provided an opportunity for him to explore the two-screen format. Steady, full colour footage adjoins hand-held black and white; creating a contrast between repose and agitation and between prosaic moments and media conscious events. Clever interplay occurs… evoking both tenacity and potential violence. The Tent is emotionally rich. Their stories are engaging and Arunasalam’s imagery is arresting. In these works and in The Tent as a whole Arunasalam invites us along on his journey to understand Sri Lanka”. — Amelia Crouch, Corridor8, 3 March 2019

“The resulting 20-minute film is quietly and profoundly affecting. Arunasalam’s camera captures the still moments of the women’s vigil as they sit silently, make tea, read or sweep the floor. It also features, by contrast, on a split screen, footage of the crowds and noise of media attention on an anniversary marking 500 days of consecutive protest. Arunasalam came to filmmaking through journalism and this is the first time his work has been shown in a gallery setting. “We wanted to take this opportunity to show the breadth of his work,” says Bond”. — Two hard-hitting new exhibitions are on display at the Tetley, The Yorkshire Post, Yvette Huddleston, 1 March 2019

“A highly sensitive and perceptive filmmaker. In his film on Sampur he brings out the human suffering as well as the expectations of the people in a lucid narrative that never fails to highlight the broader truths of war, forced displacement, and of going home. Tremendously effective communicator through his work” — Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director at Centre for Policy Alternatives, 21 September 2016

“News From Jaffna is an insightful and beautifully shot film about a young woman journalist who works on a Tamil newspaper”. — Flora Gregory, Commissioning Editor, Al Jazeera Witness, 24 October, 2014

“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. His project ‘I Am’ (2010-12), which includes video and a website, uses the diary form to interview elders in Sri Lanka, particularly as people from different ethnic groups are ejected from the country, causing strife and transformation”. — Martha Schwendener, New York Times, 7 February 2014

“The new batch has two standout films. The first, Kerosene, is a curio about the Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in March 2009. The crisp images, precisely composed shots and desaturated colour palette conjure up a city caught in a time warp. Resilience is expressed through tinkering. Mechanics and drivers run cars on kerosene. Editors print the news on whatever is available in the market, including school notebook paper and cardboard. Despondency and the prospect of eventual defeat hang over the determination of the Tamilians to tinker away in the face of hostility and hatred”. — Nandini Ramnath, Time Out, 17 February 2012

“Kannan tells stories about his life and work in a clear and creative way. In doing so, he’s able to bridge cultures and connect with listeners around the world. He skillfully matches the tone and style of the program he’s working with, while maintaining integrity on content”. — Michelle Ernsting, Director Programme Development and Global Networks at RNW Media

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