THE GOD CELLS: FETAL STEM CELL CONTROVERSY (Eric Merola, 2016)
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, June 3
In his 2014 documentary, Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan Kettering, writer, director, producer, and coeditor Eric Merola investigated the controversy over Laetrile, focusing on Memorial Sloan Kettering science writer Ralph W. Moss, PhD, and the banning of the cancer drug, which resulted in patients flocking to Mexico to receive treatment. Now Merola, whose two-part Burzynski explored the cancer therapy Antineoplastons, turns his attention to the stem-cell controversy in The God Cells, another important documentary that, unfortunately, suffers from some of the same filmmaking problems Second Opinion did. The pacing is awkward, the narrative overly biased, and alternating front and side shots of various speakers are needlessly disconcerting. The film also plays out like an infomercial for stem-cell treatment, which is banned in the United States, so Merola follows numerous patients to Mexico, where they receive the shots and many have experienced remarkable results. Although Merola does note the antiabortion movement’s religion-based fight against the use of stem cells, he instead reveals that the bigger issue in preventing their use in the U.S. is that the FDA is making it as difficult as possible to get the treatment approved because of its potential financial impact on Big Pharma and doctors, who benefit from people taking more and more drugs and coming back again and again for various other, arguably less-successful treatments.
Merola meets with men, women, and children who suffer from lupus, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, severe arthritis, and Parkinson’s, among other diseases, and who report nearly instantaneous recovery after stem-cell injections; in fact, they are shown golfing, rowing, and participating in other sports activities when previously they had trouble just walking. Also singing the praises of stem cells are former football quarterbacks John Brodie and Jerry Kramer and Laugh-In creator George Schlatter. While some doctors go on the record in support of stem cells, others are more hesitant, fearful of retribution from colleagues and the American medical industry. Merola spends too much time with CIRM, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and celebrity doctor William C. Rader of Stem Cell of America, outspoken proponents of stem-cell research. And the film features an overly long section on television director and producer David Barrett (Blue Bloods, Cold Case), who talks about how stem cells saved his life as well as that of his grandfather, ninety-nine-year-old Dave McCoy, who might be deserving of his own documentary. Interestingly, Barrett is the executive producer of The God Cells. Still, it’s a critically vital film that will open your eyes on yet another medical controversy that raises the question: Is corporate moneymaking more important than the health of the individual? The film opens at Cinema Village on June 3, with Merola and special guests participating in a Q&A following the 7:10 show that night.