Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro has reversed an earlier decision to screen a film directed by a former doctor best known for his debunked study linking vaccinations and autism.
“Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” had been slated to screen at the festival on April 24.
“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,” De Niro said in a statement posted on Saturday to the festival’s Facebook page. “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The documentary is directed by Andrew Wakefield, whose 1998 study linking childhood vaccinations to autism was retracted by a British medical journal in 2010. Wakefield also lost his medical license after the General Medical Council found that the former doctor acted unethically in his study.
De Niro’s statement on Saturday continued: “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.”
In an earlier statement from De Niro, posted on Friday, he said that he and his wife, Grace Hightower, have a child with autism and that they “believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined.”
He continued, “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.”
Before “Vaxxed” was removed from the schedule, here’s how it was described on Tribeca’s website: “Digging into the long-debated link between autism and vaccines, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe features revealing and emotional interviews with pharmaceutical doctors, politicians, parents, and one whistleblower to understand what’s behind the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today.”
A discussion with the film’s creators was to follow the screening.