'The God Cells': Film Review
Is the U.S. making it too hard to research fetal stem cell treatments?
A piece of advocational moviemaking that will have many viewers rushing out to learn where sick loved ones can obtain experimental stem cell therapies, Eric Merola's The God Cells wholeheartedly believes that, in many though not all cases, injections of fetal stem cells can cure everything from lupus to cystic fibrosis to cataracts. Though it more closely resembles journalism than does Merola's recent Second Opinion, an intriguing but problematic look at the alleged cancer cure Laetrile, this film still stacks the deck in suspicious ways, leaving many questions and doubts off the screen. While it may find an audience through alt-media outlets hungry for reports of medical breakthroughs the establishment seems bent on quashing, more skeptical viewers will wonder what a rigorous science reporter or documentarian would make of its miraculous claims.
Though it takes some time for the movie to reveal this, all of the patients it interviews are clients of a single Tijuana clinic run by William C. Rader, who has been stripped of his American medical license. Merola acknowledges the revocation, painting it as the result of a too-cautious establishment persecuting a medical innovator. But he ignores some of the claims against Rader, and when showing his background as a famous TV medical-expert-for-hire in the '70s and '80s, he doesn't tell us Rader's training was in psychiatry and his specialty was eating disorders. How, one wonders, does this qualify him to experiment with the building blocks of the human organism?
Many have called Rader a quack or worse. But Merola interviews a long string of satisfied customers, who have made stunning comebacks from debilitating illnesses. Unless they're all paid actors, something is happening at this clinic that needs to be pursued: On the couple of occasions when we follow interviewees back to the offices of their regular doctors in the U.S., each doc agrees that, however leery they might have been about seeing patients go to Tijuana for a magic cure, the results can't be explained by anything simple like the placebo effect.
Merola offers a primer on various types of stem-cell therapies, and digs a bit into the forces opposed to those that use tissue from aborted fetuses. It also lingers on the claim that much of the holdup in the States originates from Big Pharma, which it says has "bought" the FDA and would like to keep people dependent on the profitable drugs it sells for Parkinson's, leukemia, and other conditions Merola sees cured by stem cells. The tone here isn't nearly as overheated as the conspiracy-nut business in the Zeitgeist series of videos directed by Merola's brother Peter Joseph. (Though some claim Merola contributed to Zeitgeist under the pseudonym Eric Clinton, the director denies any involvement.) But since this is the fifth film Merola has made about conspiracies to sweep medical breakthroughs under the carpet, none of which seems to have led to much, one hesitates to put too much faith in it.
Production company: Merola Productions
Director-Screenwriter-Editor: Eric Merola
Producers: Eric Merola, Kate Merola
Executive producer: David Barrett
Directors of photography: David Barrett, Eric Merola, Kate Merola, Dave Newton
Composer: Peter Venne