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Problematic documentary 'The God Cells' blurs important issue

Problematic documentary 'The God Cells' blurs important issue
Dani Burton and psychiatrist William C. Rader in the documentary "The God Cells." (Merola Productions)

Undeniably provocative subject matter crying out for a more balanced presentation, "The God Cells" – a documentary examining the controversy surrounding fetal stem cell injections – remains intriguing despite its troublesome issues.

Contending that those cells harvested from abortions (of which the majority are performed on women in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia) are playing a crucial role in regenerative medicine, the film asserts subsequent injections have had promising results in slowing down or even reversing such progressive diseases as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and lupus.

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Though moral opposition on the religious front isn't surprising, filmmaker Eric Merola contends that the greatest hindrance is actually coming from Big Pharma, claiming its inability to patent those cells, which prove more potent than embryonic and adult stem cells, is causing delay tactics on the Food and Drug Administration's end.

Conspicuously absent is any voice coming from that other side, but the lack of an evenhanded structure isn't the biggest issue here. After presenting a series of inspiring case studies, the documentary problematically loses focus — and any remaining semblance of objectivity — by shifting its attention to William C. Rader, the controversial former TV medical expert whose company, Stem Cell of America, turns out to have provided the injections to those profiled patients, hockey great Gordie Howe among them.

Given the amount of screen time Merola spends trying to restore Rader's good name — his medical license was revoked in 2014 — and that parade of patient testimonials, "The God Cells" ultimately takes on the unfortunate look and feel of a late-night infomercial.

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'The God Cells'

No rating

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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