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Chi doesn't ever really find its centre.

Chi 3

DIRECTED BY ANNE WHEELER (Canadian, Canadian Spectrum)
stars 2


Saturday, April 27, 8 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Monday, April 29, 11 a.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Saturday, May 4, 1 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Moreso than with narrative films, there is an assumption when it comes to documentaries that anyone can make them. Unlike fiction features that require coming up with a tale, documentaries merely—or so this thought process goes—require finding one. But discovering a great story doesn’t mean it will translate onto the screen. Such is the case with Anne Wheeler’s Chi, a deeply personal film about her friend Babz Chula’s struggle with cancer and her search for an ayurvedic cure in India. (Chula is a Canadian actress.)

Wheeler, an accomplished filmmaker best known for Better Than Chocolate, begins the film by saying she wanted to “make a documentary the old-fashioned way” and “shoot from the hip.” This rough aesthetic, however, comes off as somewhat novice, recalling a family vacation video rather than cinéma vérité. The relationship between Wheeler and Chula is remarkably open, and Chula is game to bear all—body and emotions. This, however, is diluted by Wheeler’s heavy use of narration and scoring. The background tunes are occasionally reminiscent of spa music.

Chi’s heart is in the right place, but it feels better suited for viewing by family and friends, rather than film festival audiences.

See All Hot Docs 2013 Reviews