Robert De Niro Defends Tribeca Festival Screening Of Anti-Vaccination Documentary

UPDATE: in an about-face, De Niro has now pulled ‘Vaxxed’ from the Tribeca Film Festival - details here.

‘Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe,’ an anti-vaccination documentary directed by a discredited doctor, is set to screen at New York’s prestigious Tribeca Film Festival - much to the chagrin of some critics.

However, Robert De Niro - who co-founded the festival in 2001 - has defended the screening of the film, said to explore purported links between vaccination and autism, on somewhat personal grounds.

In a statement, the Oscar-winning actor says, “Grace (Hightower, his wife) 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.”

According to the synopsis on the Tribeca Film Festival website, ‘Vaxxed’ includes “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.”

The film is directed by Andrew Wakefield, the academic gastroenterologist who was the first to propose a link between autism and vaccinations.

However, his biography at the Tribeca site does not mention that Wakefield has long since been stripped of his medical licence. after a tribunal of the General Medical Council ruled that he had acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in his research.

Speaking to the LA Times, New Yorker journalist Michael Specter, who has written extensively on the subject, blasts Wakefield as “a criminal who is responsible for people dying. 

“This isn’t someone who has a ‘point-of-view.’ It’s comparable to Leni Riefenstahl making a movie about the Third Reich, or Mike Tyson making a movie about violence toward women. 

“The fact that a respectable organization like the Tribeca Film Festival is giving Wakefield a platform is a disgraceful thing to do.“  

‘Vaxxed’ is set to screen in New York on 24 April, with Wakefield expected to be in attendance for a post-screening discussion. 

Picture Credit: WENN, Vaxxed The Movie

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