Robert De Niro and the organizers of the Tribeca Film Festival have withdrawn a controversial anti-vaccination documentary from the fest’s schedule following the backlash toward Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Conspiracy‘s filmmaker and some of the discredited science featured in the documentary.
“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,” De Niro said in a statement Saturday.
“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.”
On Friday, De Niro defended the film, stating that while he wasn’t in league with the anti-vaccination movement, Vaxxed posed serious questions about a link between the rise in autism and vaccinations that needed to be discussed; De Niro and wife Grace Hightower have a son with autism.
However, the controversy around the filmmaker, doctor-turned-documentarian Andrew Wakefield, sparked many in the medical community to protest Vaxxed. Wakefield’s research papers on the subject have been attacked and discredited, with the Centers for Disease Control long denying there is a link between vaccinations and autism. While Wakefiled’s bio page on the Tribeca site mentioned his work in the field, it didn’t include that he’d been accused of professional misconduct and falsifying information, and that he was stripped of his medical license.
Filmmaker Penny Lane also accused the Tribeca Film Festival of “knowingly spreading dangerous lies” and “perpetuating the [vaccines cause autism] hoax” by screening Vaxxed at the Tribeca fest on April 24th.
Following news of the Tribeca Film Festival’s decision to pull Vaxxed, Wakefield wrote on Facebook, “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.”