As a publisher, author, philosophy professor, and avid theater buff, I attend, on an average, twenty-five movies a year. It would be reasonable to estimate that I watch double that amount, on cable television, in a month.
I consider myself an amateur film critic, and a new filmmaker on the rise. During the last three years, I have completed four screenplays, with one in the development stage.
In the first week of December, I was fortunate to view two of the finest “first-run” films that I have experienced recently. The first film was the critically acclaimed and Golden Globe’s “Best Picture” nominee, MUDBOUND written by Dee Rees and Virgil Williams. This gorgeous, big budget and essential movie, about race and poverty in the south, after World War II, has my vote for the Golden Globe and the Oscar for “Best Picture of the Year.”
The second outstanding picture I viewed was a low budget, little-known piece of jewel entitled, ANGELS WITHIN. It was the latter film, written and directed by veteran filmmaker Noor Naghmi, that I wish to critique for all who wish to read about it.
When we look back on the year 2017, I think, most will surmise that it was a year unlike any they have ever experienced. I certainly feel this way based on the frequent natural disasters, flooded cities and the flood of refugees (fleeing wars and famine), police brutality/shootings, sexual harassment allegations/assaults, wildfires on the West Coast and political “wildfires” that have been originating from Washington D.C since the start of the year. At times it felt like I truly needed the comfort and solace of a dark movie theater—watching good cinema—to escape from all the mayhem and madness of 2017.
“While there are challenges, I also met a lot of Americans who acknowledge and praise the contributions of immigrants.
“At the same time, I felt a strong need to tell my fellow Americans the amazing work the Pakistani-American doctors are quietly doing,” says Naghmi, whose country of origin, Pakistan, is one of the biggest suppliers of trained medical practitioners to the United States.
The theme of the film, which will soon be exhibited at festivals, addresses the broader question of stereotypes and generalizations of Muslims by some media outlets and organizations that paint the entire Muslim communities with one broad brush whenever an act of violent extremism takes place.
On the first Sunday in December, I was at the Angelica Film Center in Vienna, Virginia, invited to a special screening of Angels Within.
This film, based on the valuable contributions of foreign-born Muslim American doctors, serving in small towns and remote regions of America, was just the “medicine” I needed to make it to the New Year with my sanity in place.
Angels Within achieved its goal of highlighting, not only the indelible imprint these courageous and unselfish Muslim doctors have left on the fabric of small town and rural America.
The film succinctly brings the viewer to a much needed, yet unfamiliar American landscape, called Tolerance. Like a fine tailor, Naghmi deftly weaves his story between the main protagonist, a contemporary Pakistani-American physician and the trials and tribulations he faces as a Muslim living in the United States, and the riveting interviews of actual Muslim doctors and their patients, mostly White Christians but also from many different backgrounds, in the mostly rural areas in which they practice.
The film began with a historical account of how Muslim physicians and scientists were the “Fathers of Modern Medicine” developing, techniques, cures, and surgical tools that laid the foundation for generations of doctors to follow.
During an early emotional segment of the movie, the audience gasped and felt the humiliation and pain when the main character is racially/religiously profiled and brought to a security room by U.S. officers, made to entirely shed his clothes for no other reasons, then being a Muslim in America.
As the informative and well-paced “docu-drama” continues one feels just how valuable these “frontier Muslim doctors” are—not just to their majority poor white clients, but to the much-needed narrative of acceptance, tolerance and understanding. These incredible physicians, of the Islamic Faith, through their compassion and devotion to all men and women, are the true “Frontline Soldiers of Peace” tearing down “walls of ignorance, hate, and xenophobia.”
This beautiful and touching film demonstrates how bridges can be built if patience and love of humanity is matched by education, devotion, and professionalism, at its highest order. Angels Within, through expert writing, editing, acting, photography, and directing strikes down prejudice and Islamophobia that so often color discussions in our country today.
At the end of the movie, the packed theater cheered and gave a standing ovation for this historical cinematic achievement. Angels Within is a must-see movie for the young and the old, rich and poor, male and female, urban and rural citizens; in fact—just the folks who are the clients of the “Muslim Angels” who walk this earth and serve humanity.
It is my humble opinion that The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, take a long and considerable study of “Angels Within” and reward Noor Naghmi’s assiduous and noble achievement with an Oscar. We need more, not fewer movies of this special genre.