The biggest news in the lead up to the Tribeca Film Festival’s 15th anniversary hasn’t been the plethora of panels featuring auteurs and actors (including a Tom Hanks-meets-John Oliver talk), or the interactive exhibit that will allow attendees to combine their love of faking orgasms with their love of movies. No, the festival kicked up a lot of fuss this weekend when co-founder Robert De Niro defended the inclusion of Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe in the lineup, then bumped it following the outcry from the rational public, which did not include Rob Schneider or Jim Carrey’s butt.
Wakefield, whose research was already discredited as an “elaborate fraud” five years ago, has picked up the MMR/CDC conspiracy thread for Vaxxed, which found its way into the 2016 Tribeca film screenings somehow. The film’s selection was questioned when it was announced, but a Tribeca spokesperson defended the decision in a statement: “Tribeca, as most film festivals, are about dialogue and discussion. Over the years we have presented many films from opposing sides of an issue. We are a forum, not a judge.”
As the parent of a child with autism (a disorder whose link to the MMR vaccine has been debunked) , De Niro himself responded to the criticism, stating that although he hadn’t seen the film nor was he endorsing it, he felt its inclusion could promote intelligent discourse on its subject matter.
“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.”
With opening night now two weeks out, De Niro and Tribeca have changed their minds and decided to bump Vaxxed from the lineup. The actor has issued a new statement that explains the reversal, as well as clarifies his original position.
“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.”
So it seems that, after parsing through the film (or “data”), the festival’s organizers have realized that Vaxxed has nothing meaningful nor factual to contribute to the conversation. (Funny how that works.) But Wakefield and his producer, Del Bigtree, aren’t going silently into that good, measles-riddled night: The pair posted their own statement on the film’s website, indicating they’d find a way to provide the world with access to the(ir) truth.
Here’s the trailer, in case your curiosity has gotten the better of you.