The filmmakers and producer behind Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe are defending the project after it was pulled from screening at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival.
At a press conference held in Studio City on Wednesday, Vaxxed producers Del Bigtree and Polly Tommey, distributor Phillipe Diaz and director Dr. Andrew Wakefield gathered to talk about the documentary and the recent controversy surrounding it.
“I am the one who suggested we bring it to Tribeca, which I now feel very bad about,” said Diaz, who will be distributing the film through his Cinema Libre Studios.
Over the past weekend, fest co-founder Robert De Niro wound up “de-selecting” the film, saying in a statement: “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.”
Diaz, however, claims that the media’s influence is the reason that the doc was pulled from the fest.
“The New Yorker is comparing the filmmakers at this table to Leni Riefenstahl,” he said, referencing the Nazi propagandist filmmaker. “You think, ‘Are they smoking too much?’”
Bigtree, who worked on the medical talk show The Doctors for six years, also asserts that the film is being misrepresented by the media, saying, “This is not an anti-vaccine movie. This is a movie about making vaccines safer.”
He added: “We have just seen almost every single major news outlet in the entire country tell the public to not see a movie that they have not seen themselves.” Diaz insists that the movie has only been seen by the filmmakers and the Tribeca selection committee.
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Wakefield, the man at the center of the controversy, said, “The media have been duped, willingly or not. And the public has been duped.”
Wakefield is the former British surgeon and medical researcher who became a leading voice in the anti-vaccination movement, having authored a 1998 research paper that claimed to link the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps and rubella) to autism, a study that has since been discredited by other researchers and journalists and, in 2010, formally retracted by the journal that published it.
The doctor added that Vaxxed being pulled from the Tribeca fest is a larger, constitutional matter. “This [film] has been censored in the United States of America. It has become a First Amendment issue,” he said.
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Despite the Tribeca setback, Diaz insists that the film has been receiving positive mentions, saying, “You should know that the theaters have been calling us. We have received hundreds of emails everyday from people saying thank you for making this film.”
Vaxxed is slated to premiere this Friday at the Angelika FiIm Center in New York City.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Diaz said that he received word during Wednesday’s press conference that the Angelika is beginning to receive calls and angry emails from protesters, so he fears they will pull the screening. Diaz says that in two weeks the film will open in Los Angeles, and he has been talking to the art house theater chain Laemmle, as well as ArcLight Cinemas, about screening the films there.
“If everything goes well, we will be in 500 theaters,” said Diaz. “We will screen this movie for free if we have to.”
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