The Tribeca Film Festival has announced it will no longer be screening a documentary film depicting a causal link between vaccines and autism, following backlash that arose after actor and festival co-founder Robert De Niro declared he wanted the film to be shown.
De Niro had previously defended wanting to screen the film, “Vaxxed: from Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” but on Saturday wrote he had re-considered his decision after reviewing it with staff:
“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 decision to omit “Vaxxed” comes amid a wave of furor raised after the actor, who has an autistic child, weighed in on the festival’s selection process Friday, saying although he did not completely agree with the views presented in the film, the issue necessitated a conversation:
“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 festival had also issued a statement defending its decision to screen the film, saying it was an open forum for controversial viewpoints.
“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,” a statement from the festival read.
A page describing the documentary on the Tribeca website, which has since been deleted, said the film “features revealing and emotional interviews with pharmaceutical insiders, doctors, politicians, parents, and one whistleblower to understand what’s behind the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today.”
Critics claimed screening the film would undermine the festival’s and its participants’ integrity, with one film maker going as far as to predict that showing the film could potentially kill people.
“The anti-vaccination hoax has been completely discredited by now,” said documentary film maker Penny Lane, according to The Guardian. “Very possibly, some people will walk away from your festival having been convinced, in part because of your good name and the excellence and integrity of your documentary programming, not to vaccinate their children. And very possibly people will die as a result.”
The Guardian reports “Vaxxed” promotes an “adjusted” vaccine schedule, which suggests parents spread the administration of vaccines out over a period of time, as opposed to following the routine “49 doses of 14 vaccines by age six” model prescribed by medical authorities.
Last October, Florida Congressmen Bill Posey implored Congress to investigate admissions made by one of the film’s collaborators, former CDC researcher Dr. Bill Thompson, who claimed he and other CDC scientists were ordered to destroy documents showing a link between injections of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine at an early age and autism-like symptoms.