Robert De Niro Pulls Controversial Anti-Vaccination Documentary From Tribeca Film Festival

Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe has been officially pulled from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival lineup after criticism from filmmakers. The news comes just a day after Robert De Niro defended his choice to include the anti-vaccination documentary in the festival’s schedule.

De Niro, co-founder of the film festival, was criticized for including the film earlier this week by documentary filmmakers including Penny Lane, who wrote an open letter to the film festival, calling Wakefield “the widely discredited and dangerous anti-vaccination quack.”

On Saturday, De Niro and Tribeca reversed course, removing the film from its lineup.

“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 sent to THR. "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.”

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“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.”

De Niro defended the choice initially, saying that he did not personally endorse the film, but that "we believe it is critical that all the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined.” Vaxxed was originally scheduled to screen on April 24.

“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,“ he said on Friday. "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.”

The film, according to Tribeca Film Festival, “features revealing and emotional interviews with insiders, doctors, politicians, parents and one whistleblower to understand the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today.”

Filmmaker Wakefield is a leading voice in the anti-vaccination movement, as well as a former British surgeon and medical researcher. His 1998 research paper claimed to link the MMR vaccine to autism, but the study has since has been discredited and formally retracted in 2010 by the journal that published it.

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(Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)