The controversial 2016 documentary, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, directed by discredited former physician and anti-vaccine activist Andrew Wakefield, has been pulled from the line-up at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival by co-founder, Robert De Niro Saturday.
As you may recall, Wakefield had his 1998 study published in The Lancet retracted six years ago after being found guilty of a number of dishonesty and ethics violations.
De Niro released statements on consecutive days regarding the showing of the film:
On Friday, Mar. 25 “Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED. I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.”
The next day, De Niro made the decision concerning pulling the film: “My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.
“The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”
People responded to the decision to include and later remove the film in reactions from polar opposites of the spectrum. One commenter asked, “If you want a discussion, why are there no vaccine or autism experts involved with the movie or on the discussion panel? Why only people who are basing their careers on spreading discredited, disproven anti-vaccine myths?”
Another asked, “Why on EARTH would a film be censored or taken off? This just proves that people are scared to have the discussion. Thank you so very much for bringing this dialogue to the forefront.”
Film director and discredited physician, Andrew Wakefield also responded to Mr De Niro’s decision:
“To our dismay, we learned today about the Tribeca Film Festival’s decision to reverse the official selection of Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.
“Robert De Niro’s original defense of the film happened Friday after a one-hour conversation between De Niro and Bill Posey, the congressman who has interacted directly and at length with the CDC Whistleblower (William Thompson) and whose team has scrutinized the documents that prove fraud at the CDC.
“It is our understanding that persons from an organization affiliated with the festival have made unspecified allegations against the film – claims that we were given no opportunity to challenge or redress. We were denied due process.
“We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.
“Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed.
“We are grateful to the many thousands of people who have already mobilized including doctors, scientists, educators and the autistic community.
“We will be pressing forward and sharing our plans in the very near future. Onward!”
The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival will take place April 13th – 24th.