Robert De Niro is removing the documentary film, “Vaxxed,” from his upcoming Tribeca Film Festival. The feature explores the link between vaccines and autism. A huge backlash on social media caused De Niro to yank the documentary.
“Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Conspiracy,” examines the long-held speculations of autism’s origin coming from vaccines. It’s directed by Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former doctor who published a study citing vaccines for reason behind the escalation of autism. The study has since been discredited.
Robert De Niro responded to the outcry by pulling the film from the festival.
“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 to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.
“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.”
ABC News‘ chief medical and health editor, Dr. Richard Besser, said Wakefield lost his license and his paper was retracted. His theories have been debunked and the Tribeca Film Festival was under fire for screening the documentary.
De Niro originally defended having “Vaxxed” appear in the lineup of the festival that he co-founded.
“We believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding autism be openly discussed and examined,” he said.
— People Magazine (@people) March 28, 2016
People reports that the 72-year-old star’s 18-year-old son, Elliot, has autism.
“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,” he said in a statement.
De Niro has six children in all.
Robert De Niro said there were “concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the festival program.”
Wakefield, the film’s director, and Del Bigtree, its producer, strongly oppose De Niro’s decision.
“We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art and truth,” the statement read. “Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film ‘Vaxxed.'”
The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 13 to April 24.