The Tribeca Film Festival recently drew attention when its co-founder, multi-awarded actor Robert De Niro, allowed the festival to screen the documentary "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe," which discusses the alleged connection between the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) Vaccine and autism.
On March 26, just days after De Niro took responsibility for scheduling the documentary and receiving an open letter against the decision, De Niro himself announced that they have dropped the film by Andrew Wakefield from the Tribeca schedule.
To be perfectly clear, it was not just the March 24 open letter written by two-time Tribeca Film Grantee Penny Lane that made De Niro change his mind. According to the actor, after the Tribeca team received the letter, they reviewed the "contributions" the documentary could have made surrounding the discussion about vaccines, but they found none.
"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 [...] we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for," De Niro said.
The director of the documentary is Andrew Wakefield, the same doctor who published the paper that claimed that the MMR vaccine caused autism. However, Wakefield's research findings have been discredited by multiple scientific and medical researches, and evidence piled up showing that Wakefield perpetuated the hoax, causing his medical license to be revoked.
"This film is not some sort of disinterested investigation into the 'vaccines cause autism' hoax; this film is directed by the person who perpetuated the hoax [...] But the problem is not that Vaxxed is controversial, or even that it's deceptive. [...] The problem is that it is dangerous misinformation being legitimized under the banner of your considerable prestige," Lane wrote.
Of course, the filmmaker did not take the news well. Wakefield and Del Bigtree, the film's producer, have called foul on being dropped from the Tribeca schedule and have accused De Niro and Tribeca Film Festival of censorship of free speech in favor of corporate interests.