On May 5, Melbourne film director Anna Kannava passed away after being diagnosed with cancer about 12 months ago. She was just 51. For those that knew her, she was an amazing woman, a fiery, passionate individual who transcended her life-circumstances to lead a rich, brilliant life.
As a film-maker, she wasn’t as well-known as the other Greek Australian directors such as Ana Kokkinos or Alkinos Tsilimidos, but as far as I’m concerned, her vision and output were far superior. Anna was born in Cyprus in 1959, and indeed lived there, in Limassol, until she was a 15 year-old teenager, starting to find her feet in the world. But she was ripped from that environment (and all her friends) unexpectedly. Her family emigrated to Australia, to Melbourne, and she found herself in an unknown land, and had to learn English.
Finally, she settled and went to university, to Rusden College (now Deakin University), where the arts, especially film-making, spoke to her, and she embraced them. But a new twist of fate was to come her way. In her mid 20s, she started to be affected by the disease of scleroderma. As the name suggests, it is a condition characterised by a hardening of the skin, around the muscles and bones.
And so Anna’s looks began to change – she became very gaunt. But this surface change is the least of it. Scleroderma then creates other complications: hypertension, heart irregularities, lung/respiratory problems, difficulty in digestion, and also skin and joint problems. Anna suffered from most of these complications. For example, the joints in her fingers were frozen and melded – she couldn’t use her hands properly. So, from her mid 20s onwards, Anna’s life was primarily about body-management, about medicines and treatments. She would constantly feel frail or cold.
The Melbourne winter, not a particularly harsh winter, would drive her out of the country and to Europe, almost every year without fail. Which she turned into an advantage: she re-connected with her homeland Cyprus, and also discovered France, Portugal, Austria, etc. Anna completely overcame this major obstacle life had put in her way.
In her 30s and 40s she made a number of great films, short ones, documentaries, and also two feature films, Dreams for Life (2004) and Kissing Paris (2008), and she also wrote two novels, Stefanos of Limassol (2003) and So Much Joy – Lisboa! (2008), both of which will be published in the near future. She had an incredible energy, an incredible spirit, and life-force.
And she touched many people. She was a complete inspiration to many of us. Listen to Maria Mercedes, the star of Dreams for Life: “Anna touched my life…she gave me the greatest gift: her friendship. Making Dreams for Life was the best experience of my entire life, as I had entered Anna’s soul and I was no longer acting but ‘experiencing’ her vision. I will die a happy woman having had Anna and her ‘Dreams’ in my life.
The world is now a much dimmer place…we have lost someone who was highly intelligent, a brilliant artist, a generous soul. Had she not been taken away so soon, the world would have experienced more magic from her. We will miss her.” And listen to Anthea Sidiropoulos, another Greek Australian singer, and someone who never worked with Anna, but someone who loved her and understood her: “What I remember most about Anna was her staunch insistence that things could be achieved no matter what the odds.
Anna reflected truth, dignity and the fight to move forward – we were only to focus on positive talk, no toxicity, positive outlook, positive outcome, positive therapies. I connected with Anna immediately, as our sharing covered much to do with survivorship issues of breaking down disadvantage barriers of time, effort, opportunity, pain threshold, in order to get around to exploring and appreciating the good bits in life. And it is the present moment that is the point of power: the NOW is what exists.
Anna Kannava was a driving force of life.” I too was totally captivated and enriched by this amazing being – she was a great friend and great person to work with. Anna, we will never forget you.