Source: LA Times
Just a day after the actor revealed that he had personally pushed for a showing of a controversial anti-vaccine film, Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro reversed his position.
“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. “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.”
Tribeca caused an uproar earlier in the week when it announced that Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, directed by anti-vaccine activist Andrew Wakefield, would be screened at this year’s festival. The movie alleges a “cover-up” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine increasing the risk of autism — a position that has been widely discredited by the scientific community and criticized for leading to a dangerous drop-off in MMR vaccinations. Recent years have brought an increase in measles outbreaks, including a high-profile series of cases tied to Disneyland in 2015.
The New Yorker medical journalist Michael Specter said that it was “shocking” and “disgraceful…This is a criminal who is responsible for people dying…” L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik was also an outspoken critic: “That hand-waving in favor of ‘dialogue’ can shield a lot of damaging mischief,” he wrote.
De Niro revealed that he, and not the festival’s programmers, had been the one who scheduled the film. He said his interest in the issue came from his experience with his child, who is autistic.
“The festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy,” his statement reads. “However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the festival program.”
In an email, Micheal Specter commented:
“It is comforting to know that in the end, Mr. De Niro and his colleagues at the festival responded to data and science rather than to emotion and fear. Many children will benefit from this decision.”
Wakefield did not immediately comment via social media or a representative. The activist could still seek to hold a separate screening in New York outside the festival on April 24, the day it was scheduled. He also could use the decision as proof of a conspiracy against his theories.
“Once you give someone a platform, it’s very hard to take it away,” Specter said. “It creates a martyr.”