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

‘The chief monk’, I Am project

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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.

‘Simplicity is the mark of genius, 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.

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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