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Tribeca Film Festival cancels screening of controversial anti-vaccination documentary

Tribeca Film Festival cancels screening of controversial anti-vaccination documentary


Robert De Niro and festival organizers had earlier defended film from disgraced doctor-turned activist

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Alternative Views - 2015 Tribeca Film Festival
Photo by Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

The Tribeca Film Festival has reversed its stance on screening controversial anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. In a statement, actor and festival co-founder Robert De Niro reiterated his earlier comments, saying, "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 adds, however, that "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 also notes: "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." He concludes, "We have decided to remove it from our schedule."

"We have concerns with certain things in this film."

One of De Niro's six children has autism, a disorder that Vaxxed director and activist Andrew Wakefield attempted to link to MMR vaccines in a 1998 medical journal. That paper was later discovered to be fraudulent, and it was retracted in 2010. However, the idea that certain vaccines could increase the risk of a life-altering disorder proved very potent, and the paper helped spark the anti-vaccine movement. High numbers of unvaccinated children has led to outbreaks of diseases like the measles, which were once all but eliminated from the US. De Niro had earlier defended the initial decision to screen the documentary, saying that the film festival was "providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue."