Robert De Niro on Saturday pulled a controversial documentary from his Tribeca Film Festival after facing backlash about the movie’s controversial and widely-debunked anti-vaccination message.
The actor, who has a child with autism, said in a statement that he had “concerns” with Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe after consulting with experts in the science field about the movie’s focus on the debunked link between vaccines and autism. It’s a reversal from his original stance amid mounting criticism that the film would be important in the ongoing conversation about the surrounding causes of autism.
“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. “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,” he added. “However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program.”
The film festival had Vaxxed in its lineup next month. It was directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, the author of a study that was published and later retracted, according to the New York Times.
Wakefield and the film’s producer Del Bigtree said in a statement that they were dismayed to learn the movie had been pulled. “We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth,” their statement said. “Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed.”