In a decision that has dredged up the widely debunked link between vaccines and autism, the Tribeca Film Festival plans to screen a film by a former doctor whose research caused widespread alarm about the issue. 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activist and an author of a study — published in the British medical journal The Lancet, in 1998 — that was retracted in 2010.
Robert De Niro, one of the festival’s founders, said in a statement issued through the festival’s publicists that he supported the plan to show the movie next month, although he said he was “not personally endorsing the film,” nor was he against vaccination. “Grace and I have a child with autism,” he wrote, referring to his wife, Grace Hightower De Niro, “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.”
However, De Niro later reversed the decision and pulled the controversial film from the festival. He later released a statement to explain the new decision. “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,” he said.
“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.”