×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tribeca Film Festival Pulls Controversial Anti-Vaccination Documentary

In an abrupt about-face, the Tribeca Film Festival has pulled a controversial anti-vaccination documentary a day after festival co-founder Robert De Niro publicly defended the decision to show “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.”

“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.”

“Vaxxed” is co-written and directed by Andrew Wakefield, a former surgeon and medical researcher who published a discredited 1998 research paper that claimed that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to autism. Wakefield was accused of professional misconduct and falsifying information in that study, and the Lancet, the journal that ran the research, retracted the piece. The British doctor has been barred from practicing medicine in the U.K.

Popular on Variety

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no link between vaccination and autism. The anti-vaccination movement has lowered vaccination rates, which in turn has been linked to a recurrence of vaccine-preventible diseases such as measles and mumps.

De Niro and his wife, Grace Hightower, have an autistic child, and in a statement on Friday, the actor and director said he believed “it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined.”

The reaction on Twitter, Facebook and social media platforms was intense. The decision also was criticized in the creative community, with documentary filmmaker Penny Lane (“Our Nixon”) writing an open letter to the the festival saying that including “Vaxxed” threatened its credibility.

In the face of mounting outrage, De Niro said that he had become concerned about the content of the picture.

“The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy,” De Niro’s statement continues. “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.”

More Film

  • John Turturro The Batman

    'The Batman': John Turturro to Play Carmine Falcone in New Film

    John Turturro is set to join the cast of Matt Reeves and Warner Bros.’ “The Batman” starring Robert Pattinson. Reeves announced on Twitter that Turturro would be playing Carmine Falcone, the Gotham City gangster and adversary to the Caped Crusader. Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano and Colin Farrell are also on board. Tom Wilkinson had previously [...]

  • Dutch art dealer Jan Six and

    IDFA: Oeke Hoogendijk's 'My Rembrandt' Debuts Trailer Before World Premiere (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer to “My Rembrandt,” directed by Oeke Hoogendijk, which has its world premiere on Sunday in the Masters section of the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The film is set in the world of the art market for paintings by the Dutch Old Master. While art collectors [...]

  • Martin Scorsese'The Irishman' film premiere, Arrivals,

    Martin Scorsese Honored by Palm Springs Film Festival for 'The Irishman'

    Martin Scorsese has been selected by the Palm Springs International Film Festival as the recipient of its Sonny Bono Visionary Award for “The Irishman.” He will be presented the award at the festival’s gala on Jan. 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The festival runs Jan. 2-13. “Martin Scorsese has directed another masterpiece about [...]

  • 'Sunless Shadows' Review: Piercing Iranian Doc

    IDFA Film Review: 'Sunless Shadows'

    “Listen to women” has become the mantra of the MeToo age, though films that entirely follow its simple directive remain relatively few. “Starless Dreams” was one: Mehrdad Oskouei’s superb 2016 documentary engaged in aching, revealing dialogue with multiple teenage girls in a Tehran juvenile correctional facility, lending an open, sympathetic ear to their stories of [...]

  • Trusted reindeer Sven and curious snowman

    'Frozen 2' Heads for Sizzling $130 Million North American Launch

    Disney’s “Frozen 2” is heading for a hot $130 million opening weekend at 4,400 North American locations, early estimates showed Friday. That’s well above the $100 million launch that Disney was forecasting for the sequel, which will provide a much-needed jolt to the moviegoing business. The 2019 North American box office trails last year by [...]

  • The Banker

    Apple Delays 'The Banker' Release Amid Review of Family Accusations

    Apple is delaying the theatrical release of “The Banker,” originally set for Dec. 6 with assistance from Bleecker Street, insiders familiar with the company said. It’s being delayed as the filmmakers review accusations of historical inaccuracy and sexual abuse at the hands of co-producer Bernard Garrett Jr. The film was also set to premiere on [...]

  • Alex Ginno Fully Formed

    Brad Fuller and Andrew Form's Fully Formed Taps Alex Ginno as Head of Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Alex Ginno has joined Brad Fuller and Andrew Form’s Fully Formed as head of film. The company has a three-year first-look deal with Paramount, where they recently wrapped production on “A Quiet Place: Part II” and are currently prepping Season 3 of the hit show “Jack Ryan” for Amazon. The second season recently bowed, with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content