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The Woman Behind the Scenes
Anne Wheeler directs this raw and powerful film chronicling the cancer fight of a lifetime with BC arts scene icon Babz Chula. Learn more about this local champion and the legacy that lives on.Read More
The Women Behind the Scenes
Chi. It is the term used in Chinese culture to describe the energy of life and is referenced by many cultures, in some form or another, the world over.
Chi also happens to be the title of a film featuring one of Vancouver’s best-known actors, Babz Chula, as she fights to preserve that life energy during her battle with cancer and how she spends her final days.
Chula, for the unaware, has been described as “The Queen of B.C. Indie Film,” and has appeared in numerous local productions both on-screen and on-stage. Her roles included major Hollywood productions such as The X-Files, The L Word, 21 Jump Street and MacGyver. Chula was so ingrained in the local performance scene that, according to the Vancouver Sun, throughout the history of the Vancouver International Film Festival there was rarely a year “where Babz Chula wasn’t featured in at least one movie.”
With more than 100 film and television credits, Chula’s work certainly didn’t go unnoticed either.
On top of her 2001 Gemini Award, 2006 Genie Award and Best Supporting Actress Award from the 2003 New York International Independent Film & Video Festival, Chula had three Leo awards to her name, as well as two further nominations.
But who was Babz Chula?
Born Barbara Ellen Zuckerman in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1946 and raised in Los Angeles, Chula arrived in British Columbia in the early 1970s. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that she made the jump to acting, eventually landing in film and television roles on both sides of the border. As her career continued to grow, Chula’s love for the arts would not be determined merely by her list of Hollywood credits. While simultaneously appearing in big-budget productions, Chula continued to work on smaller, independent films, earning her a reputation for never being too big or too busy for her community.
Even after being diagnosed with cancer, Chula continued to take on roles, not content to let the disease slow her down.
In an interview with the Vancouver Sun a year before her death, Chula told the paper if there was one benefit to her diagnosis it was being forced to face one’s mortality. "I don't mean that morbidly," she told the paper. "That's a blessing and a gift, to be able to value your life because you thought about death. In contemplating death, my life has such great value. It's what you get from living with cancer, and that's rich stuff."
And it was her commitment to the arts, as well as her undeniable personality, that left a lasting impression on all she came into contact with.
Following her diagnosis, friends and colleagues rallied to raise funds for Chula’s treatments, including X-Files star David Duchovny, who auctioned himself off as a dinner guest for the cause. After her passing, many a young artist sang Chula’s praise, noting she was always willing to lend guidance to those trying to make it in a notoriously fickle industry.
Even now, six years later, Chula’s legacy continues to live on in the form of the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society. Initially started by the late-actor’s friends as a way to help cover the costs of her cancer treatments, the society has since carried on as a way to offer the same assistance to other artists struggling with disease.