Robert De Niro Makes an Abrupt U-Turn on Decision to Premier Anti-Vaxx Movie
Robert De Niro, actor and co-founder of the Tribecca Film Festival, came under attack this weekend for his decision to premiere a controversial film, Vaxxed: from Cover-Up to Catastrophe in the forthcoming festival.
De Niro, who's child has autism, said in a statement that he hoped the inclusion of the film by Andrew Wakefield would open conversation and debate around this contentious subject.
“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.”
“Tribeca, as are most film festivals, is about dialogue and discussion. Over the years we have presented many films from opposing sides of an issue. We are a forum, not a judge.”
Disgraced former medical researcher Andrew Wakefield is known for his now widely discredited 1998 research citing the MMR vaccine as potential cause of autism. Wakefield was subsequently struck off the UK medical register after being found guilty of "dishonesty" by a tribunal held by the General Medical Council. According to The Guardian, the tribunal also said he had subjected children to unnecessary invasive medical procedures.
Less than two days after the release of his original statement De Niro and the festival board made the decision to withdraw Wakefield's film from the festival programme with an additional statement:
“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,” said De Niro.
“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.”
The Vaxxed producers responded with their own statement:
“We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.”
The films trailer has subsequently been viewed over 100,000 times in the five days since being posted to YouTube.