One day after Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro defended the organization’s decision to include controversial anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed in this year’s lineup, the film has been pulled from the schedule.
“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 released late Saturday afternoon. “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.”
De Niro added, “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.”
Directed by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who erroneously claimed vaccines caused autism and was later stripped of his medical license, Vaxxed was added to the Tribeca lineup this week – a decision that was roundly criticized online.
In response to the outcry, De Niro issued a statement Friday afternoon defending the choice to screen Vaxxed at the New York-set fest.
“Grace [Hightower, De Niro’s 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,” De Niro said. “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.”
Wakefield’s findings, which were first published in British medical journal The Lancet in 1998, were proven false and discredited. The controversy around his career was not mentioned on the Tribeca Film Festival website in the entry for Vaxxed. The page has since been removed.
This year’s Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 13 through April 24.