The Tribeca Film Festival is facing serious backlash for including anti-vaccination documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe” from doctor-turned-documentarian Andrew Wakefield into its 2016 lineup.
Wakefield is a fervent believer in the link between vaccination and autism. He has also been the subject of many controversies, including being accused of professional misconduct and falsifying information as early as 1998 in one of his research papers. Wakefield’s bio on the festival’s page for the documentary mentions the research paper and study but not that it was later discredited.
Many called for a response about the festival’s decision. Robert DeNiro, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, defended the choice to include the film, even though he doesn’t endorse the content.
“Grace 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. 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.”
His statement spurred more negative reactions on Twitter, many questioning his decision to include such a controversial film if he in fact doesn’t support the anti-vaccination movement.
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Including the film has prompted some to categorized the festival’s decision as “irresponsible” and called out the film for being “dishonest” and “one-sided” in its message.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no link between vaccination and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, in a statement on the org’s website says “vaccines are very important” and “parents must make the decision whether to vaccinate their children.”
He adds that, “If parents decide not to vaccinate they must be aware of the consequences in their community and their local schools.”
The film premieres on April 24 at the Tribeca Film Festival, which will include a conversation with the filmmakers after the screening.