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Kannan Arunasalam is an award winning British–Sri Lankan documentary filmmaker. Kannan’s films have screened at international film festivals and art museums, most recently his British solo exhibition at The Tetley, United Kingdom (2019). His work has appeared in Guardian Films, The New Yorker, AOL Originals, and broadcast on BBC and Al Jazeera English.

Kannan read psychology at the University of Cambridge and holds a masters in international human rights law from the University of Oxford focusing on new media and conflict. He was a visiting professor teaching ‘media representations of the Sri Lankan conflict’ at Cornell University’s Department of Asian Studies, and continues to engage students in filmmaking on location with Cornell University’s Architecture Department. Kannan is available to work internationally in these different roles.

Work History

  • May 2019 - present
    Al Jazeera English, Doha

    Commissioned to produce a new documentary film for Al Jazeera Media Network’s flagship strand ‘Witness’. Awaiting broadcast.

  • Dec 2020 - June 2021
    Cornell University, New York

    Commissioned by Cornell University to produce a film based on footage shot during the ‘Atmospheric Pressures: Climate Imaginaries and Migration in the Caribbean’ Mellon Seminar (2019) in Trinidad & Tobago, in collaboration with Architecture Department’s Professor Tao DuFour and the English Department’s Natalie Melas.

  • Dec 2020 - June 2021
    Cornell University, New York

    Commissioned by Cornell University to produce a film based on footage shot during the ‘Atmospheric Pressures: Climate Imaginaries and Migration in the Caribbean’ Mellon Seminar (2019) in Trinidad & Tobago, in collaboration with Architecture, Art & Planning Department’s Professor Tao DuFour and the English Department’s Natalie Melas.

  • Sep - Oct 2019
    Cornell University, New York

    On location filming in Trinidad & Tobago, working with Cornell University—Mellon Seminar 2019: “Atmospheric Pressures: Climate Imaginaries and Migration in the Caribbean”. Filming the urban, infrastructural, and environmental contexts, and informal teaching of Cornell University's post-graduate students, engaging them in the filmmaking process.

  • May - October 2019
    Open Society Foundation, London

    Grant from Open Society Foundation to exhibit ‘The Tent’ film installation, alongside Stephen Champion’s photography, in two exhibitions in Colombo (with an opening event hosted by Amnesty International) and Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The exhibitions sought to keep the spotlight on forcible disappearances in Sri Lanka during the civil war (1983-2009) and the southern insurrection (1987-1989).

  • April 2013 - July 2019
    Stateless Media, Los Angeles

    Director, script development, director of photography and post-production for this new media start up, "Postprint storytelling and the home of the shortreal". Co-directed 'The Brothers Shaikh' (2013) (posted on The New Yorker, The Guardian); directed 'The People's Prophet' (2014) (commissioned by The Guardian), Director of Photography on 'Citizen Mars' (2015) (commissioned by AOL/Engadget). Director/DoP/Editor of 'Thep' (2016) (posted on Upworthy); co-director/DoP on Bitcoin project (2016) (commissioned by AOL/TechCrunch); director/DoP of shortreal 'Xu Ji' (2016); director/DoP of shortreal ‘Dhruvi) (2017).

  • October 2018 - May 2019
    The Tetley, Leeds, United Kingdom

    Solo exhibition of new film installation ‘The Tent’ and other work at The Tetley contemporary art gallery, Leeds 16 February —2 June 2019. The exhibition's central film installation was a co-commission supported by the British Council and Arts Council England through The New North and South; a three-year programme of activity across eleven arts organisations from the North of England and South Asia.

  • September - November 2016
    Cornell University, New York

    Pre-production on doc film aiming to capture “the city of Havana as a character”; and informal teaching of Cornell University's Department of Architecture students on a Mellon Seminar to Cuba.

  • December 2015 - March 2016
    Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo

    Commissioned by the Foreign Commonwealth Office and CPA to make 'Sampur' (30 mins), a documentary film about a displaced community's struggle to return home after decades of conflict.

  • August - October 2015
    Cornell University, New York

    Visiting lecturer to teach 'Media Representations of the Conflict in Visual Media: Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Diaspora' for the Asia Department and to give a seminar on religious conflict in Myanmar during the Fall semester, 2015.

  • March – October 2014
    Al Jazeera English, Doha

    Commissioned by Al Jazeera English's Witness team and under its 'Viewfinder Asia' programme to make a new documentary film, 'News From Jaffna', broadcast in September 2014.

  • April 2013 - November 2014
    Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, Cambodia

    Filmmaker, documentary photographer, and media consultant in Myanmar. Directed and filmed several video portraits to highlight Myanmar's religious diversity; films have been used in international fora to promote religious tolerance and highlight religious conflict in Burma. Documentary photography of the All Burma Students Democratic Front's transition to peace.

  • November 2013 - May 2014
    BBC Radio 4, London

    Co-produced radio documentary commissioned by BBC Radio 4. Worked with award winning Falling Tree Productions. ‘The Singing Fish of Batticaloa’ was broadcast on 28 July 2014.

  • August 2012 – October 2013
    International Alert, London

    Filmmaker / Media and conflict consultant, commissioned to produce a series of video portraits on diaspora individuals and their engagement with Sri Lanka. ‘Diaspora Diaries’ posted on The Guardian to mark International Peace Day.

  • December 2009 – April 2013
    US State Department, United States

    Grant of US$65,000 to work on ‘I Am’ multimedia narratives project. The ' I Am' project explores identity through the lives of 66 Sri Lankan elders. Over 14 hours of inspirational stories to listen to, edited from over 50 hours of captured oral history.

  • January– April 2008
    Radio Netherland Worldwide, The Hague

    Sri Lanka correspondent for The State We're In, a human rights focussed, narrative journalism programme.

  • July 2011 – February 2012
    International Alert, London

    Filmmaker and media and conflict consultant commissioned to produce a series of video portraits on the experiences of the Sri Lankan diaspora when engaging with development work in the conflict-affected north of Sri Lanka.

  • July 2010 – April 2011
    Centre for Policy Alternative, Colombo

    Grant to produce three documentary shorts for CPA's Moving Images project, under a Ford Foundation grant. Two of the films have been screened at international film festivals, selected for Travelling Film South Asia 2012, and broadcast on Aljazeera English.

  • January 2006 - January 2010
    Centre for Poverty Analysis, Colombo

    Media consultant, documentary filmmaker and senior researcher for this Colombo based think tank. Conceptualised an award winning conflict website and produced documentary portraits of youth discussing peace and conflict.

  • January 2005 - December 2006
    Oxfam NOVIB, Colombo

    Communications consultant working on post-tsunami and conflict advocacy.

  • September 1998 - July 2003
    Pinsent Masons, (formerly Biddle & Co), London

    Qualified defamation and human rights lawyer of this international law firm, handling high-profile defamation, privacy and human rights related litigation.


  • January 2007 – August 2008
    M.St. International Human Rights, University of Oxford

    Masters degree in International Human Rights with dissertation on new media and conflict.

  • September 1992 – June 1995
    M.A. Natural Sciences (Experimental Psychology), University of Cambridge

    Natural Sciences majoring in Psychology. Part II project, ‘Do the Eyes Convey Emotion’ was featured on BBC’s Tomorrow's World.


  • Manuel Rivera- Ortiz Foundation Prize for Best Documentary Short, 2013
  • Seattle Asian International Documentary Festival Prism Award for Best Documentary Short, 2012
  • Excellence in Communications Award for innovative use of new media, Society for New Communications Research, 2007