Robert De Niro announced on Saturday that Andrew Wakefield's controversial documentary, which links vaccinations to autism, will no longer be shown at this year's Tribeca Film Festival.
Just a day after De Niro, a festival cofounder, defended his selection of Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, he and his team have decided to pull the film from the festival line-up. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, De Niro explained that he previously included Wakefield's documentary on the roster to start a conversation about autism. De Niro, who revealed he has an autistic child in his earlier statement, said that it's "an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family."
After reviewing Wakefield's documentary, however, De Niro decided it no longer "contributes to or furthers the discussion" that he had hoped for.
Here is the full statement from De Niro issued to BuzzFeed News on Saturday via a representative for the film festival:
“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 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.”
Wakefield, the director of Vaxxed, has responded to the festival's decision to remove his documentary from this year's line-up. In a Facebook post written Saturday night, the former doctor slammed Tribeca for "denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed."
Wakefield's full statement is below:
To our dismay, we learned today about the Tribeca Film Festival's decision to reverse the official selection of Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.
Robert De Niro's original defense of the film happened Friday after a one-hour conversation between De Niro and and Bill Posey, the congressman who has interacted directly and at length with the CDC Whistleblower (William Thompson) and whose team has scrutinized the documents that prove fraud at the CDC.
It is our understanding that persons from an organization affiliated with the festival have made unspecified allegations against the film - claims that we were given no opportunity to challenge or redress. We were denied due process.
We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.
Tribeca's action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed.
We are grateful to the many thousands of people who have already mobilized including doctors, scientists, educators and the autistic community.
We will be pressing forward and sharing our plans in the very near future.
- Andrew Wakefield (Director) and Del Bigtree (Producer)