Robert De Niro Pulls Controversial Anti-Vaccination Film From Tribeca Film Festival, Accused Of Censorship By Director

Robert De Niro has pulled the controversial anti-vaccination film Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe from the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, according to Forbes. De Niro’s decision to pull the film came as a surprise after just yesterday, Robert had repeatedly defended his decision to accept the film into Tribeca.

According to the New York Times, De Niro had originally posted on the Tribeca Film Festival Facebook page a statement that Robert and his wife, Grace, have a child with autism, and the De Niros felt the film by Andrew Wakefield was worthy of discussion because the issue was “personal” to them. De Niro immediately began to receive backlash for the decision because many felt Robert was promoting the falsehood of a link between vaccinations and autism.

Robert De Niro and his wife Grace, 2016 amFar Gala. Image via Jamie McCarthy/Getty.
According to the Huffington Post, Robert De Niro also said in the earlier statement that he was not anti-vaccination, nor was De Niro personally endorsing the film. On Saturday, the Tribeca Film Festival released an updated position from Robert De Niro regarding screening Vaxxed. The new position stated that De Niro and his fellow board members would be pulling the movie from the festival’s line up.

“… after reviewing it (Vaxxed) 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 continued, “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.”

Andrew Wakefield, the filmmaker responsible for Vaxxed, is the former physician whose 1998 research paper on the link between vaccinations and autism was proven to be fraudulent by multiple other studies. Wakefield immediately responded to De Niro’s decision to pull Vaxxed from the lineup by releasing his own statement on the movie’s Facebook page, accusing De Niro and the Tribeca committee of censorship.

“We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.”

While De Niro’s original decision to show the film drew criticism, so also did his decision to pull it from the festival with many people taking to social media and stating that De Niro was in the pockets of corporate America and big pharmaceutical companies and failing to advocate for his child.

Robert De Niro is a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, which started in 2002. Conceived as a means of rejuvenating the Tribeca neighborhood of New York in the wake of the September 11 attacks, De Niro and co-founders Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff created the Tribeca Film Institute, a non-profit organization to help promote film arts and provide for film education programs in the neighborhood De Niro grew up in.

Robert De Niro and Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal, 2015 Tribeca Gala. Image via Dave Kotinsky/Getty.
The festival itself has provided a means for a select group of independent filmmakers to provide screenings of their previously unseen films and is often attended by those who join De Niro as the Hollywood elite. This year’s Tribeca Film Festival will include speeches from Tom Hanks and Tina Fey, as well as director J. J. Abrams and De Niro’s former Taxi Driver co-stars and crew.

While it seems like the 72-year-old De Niro should have his hands full with the festival and the controversy surrounding Vaxxed, the actor has not slowed down his on-screen career. De Niro recently wrapped up filming Hands of Stone, based on boxer Roberto Duran, and is currently filming The Comedian with Leslie Mann.

[Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images]