New York City – Tribeca film festival organizers decided on Saturday to remove the anti-vaccination documentary called “Vaxxed” from the lineup after the film was strongly criticized by different filmmakers.

The film is about a controversial issue suggesting that vaccines have a link to autism. As soon as the news that the festival planned to include the documentary, physicians and filmmakers said it was not worthy of the festival started to complain. One of the serious reactions came from director Penny Lane who called the director of the film “the widely discredited and dangerous anti-vaccination quack.”

De Niro
Tribeca film festival organizers decided to remove the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed from the lineup after the film was strongly criticized. Credit: Washington Post

The Oscar-winning actor and co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro, was forced to take the documentary out of the lineup after he defended his choice to include it.

“’Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Conspiracy’ was set to be part of the film festival when it opened next month. 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,” De Niro said in a statement posted Saturday on the festival’s Facebook page.

De Niro defended the film

On Friday, just a day before deciding to take it out, 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.

“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 Oscar-winning actor and co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, one of the country’s largest showcases of independent cinema, has a child with autism on his own.

Vaxxed controversy

The film “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” is directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, an anti-vaccination activist and an author of a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet, in 1998. The study involved 12 children.

The study was then retracted in 2010 and Mr. Wakefield’s medical license was revoked by Britain’s General Medical Council, citing ethical violations and a failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest. Since then, no study has found such link, and an investigation by the British medical journal BMJ in 2011 found Wakefield’s study was an “elaborate fraud” that falsified data in a “deliberate attempt” to create an impression of a link.

Wakefield then switched profession to filmmaker and started working on the documentary to show his beliefs that vaccination contributed to autism. The film picks the subject of his study that would catapult Wakefield into becoming one of the most controversial figures in the history of medicine. But the film would not see the light, at least not in the festival.

At the moment, news about the screening of the film in the festival, physicians and filmmakers started saying it was not worthy of the festival’s platform. They argued that its entry in the documentary category will threaten the credibility of other filmmakers and it will also perpetuate what is widely considered a hoax in the medical community.

Following news of the Tribeca Film Festival’s decision to pull his film, Wakefield wrote on Facebook that people from an organization affiliated with the festival have made unspecified allegations against the film.

Wakefield criticized the organizers of the festival didn’t give them the opportunity to challenge or redress. He concluded the post saying he had just witnessed another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.

Source: Rolling Stone