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Review: Documentary ‘Angels Within’ depicts Pakistani American doctors in underserved areas

Noor Naghmi and Cynthia Ritchi in “Angels Within” movie. CREDIT: Hummingbird Film Studios
Cynthia Ritchie and Noor Naghmi in the documentary “Angels Within.”
(Hummingbird Film Studios )

Featuring interviews with Muslim American physicians from across the U.S., the exceedingly earnest hybrid documentary/docudrama “Angels Within” focuses on a generation that arrived from Pakistan in the 1990s and early 2000s and carved out careers in underserved regions.

These men and women report an overwhelming sense of acceptance from the communities they work in — even in the wake of 9/11 and the Age of Trump. Testimonials from patients and civic leaders appear to support that notion, but veer into infomercial territory. We hear from Dr. Armujan Hamshi, an eminent cardiologist who served as the mayor of Paris, Texas, for three years, and many others, but there’s a lack of detail in the individual doctors’ journeys.

Director Noor Naghmi and writer Anjum Ara Saad attempt to fill that void via a painfully awkward dramatization starring Naghmi as a Virginia surgeon victimized in a humiliating case of profiling and overreach by local airport security. These scenes, intercut with the talking head interviews, quickly drain the film’s credibility.

Though it lacks the sophistication and depth its subject merits, “Angels Within” does suggest the possibility of reconciling some of the cultural divisions that face the nation if we are willing to drop the labels and judgments and see one another as human beings.

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‘Angels Within’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing: Starlight Terrace Cinemas, Rancho Palos Verdes

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