Andrew Wakefield's Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe managed to stir up controversy in two worlds that rarely overlap -- both the film and medical communities.
The anti-vaccination documentary, written and directed by Andrew, was set to play at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, but it caused quite an uproar with an unknown party associated with the festival. Robert De Niro, one of the festival's founders, released a statement on Saturday saying that they had reconsidered Vaxxed and decided to pull Wakefield's film, according to The New York Times.
"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. 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.Andrew rocketed to the forefront of the anti-vaxxer movement when he published a study in British medical journal The Lancet that claimed to find a link between the administration of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. More than 10 years later in 2010, the study was retracted and Wakefield lost his license for several charges, including dishonesty and the abuse of developmentally challenged children, according to General Medical Council documents from his hearing.
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."
Vaxxed takes viewers through a visual tour of some of Andrew's claims, including conversations with a CDC whistleblower who claims there has been a widespread coverup of the autism-vaccine link. Wakefield and film's producer, Del Bigtree, wrote a message on the documentary's website soon after receiving the decision that it would no longer appearing at Tribeca.
"To our dismay, we learned today about the Tribeca Film Festival's decision to reverse the official selection of Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. Robert De Niro's original defense of the film happened Friday after a one-hour conversation between De Niro and and Bill Posey, the congressman who has interacted directly and at length with the CDC Whistleblower (William Thompson) and whose team has scrutinized the documents that prove fraud at the CDC."
While Andrew was able to argue his case to the organizers themselves, it did not save the film from heavy criticism. Wakefield claims that they were given no opportunity to address whatever counter-argument resulted in Vaxxed being cut from the festival.
"It is our understanding that persons from an organization affiliated with the festival have made unspecified allegations against the film - claims that we were given no opportunity to challenge or redress. We were denied due process. We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth."
The publication of Andrew's original Lancet study is often attributed to a decline in vaccinations in Britain and Western Europe, although those rates have stayed relatively steady in the United States, according to National Geographic. Even after Wakefield's report was rejected, the anti-vaxxer movement continued to gain popularity, and he promised these adherents that his fight would not stop because of Tribeca's decision.
"Tribeca's action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed. We are grateful to the many thousands of people who have already mobilized including doctors, scientists, educators and the autistic community.We will be pressing forward and sharing our plans in the very near future."
Will you be checking out Andrew Wakefield's Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe?
[Image via Alexander Raths/Shutterstock]