NEW YORK – Robert De Niro is removing the anti-vaccination documentary “Vaxxed” from the lineup of his Tribeca Film Festival, after initially defending its inclusion.
“Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Conspiracy,” was set to be part of the film festival when it opened next month. The decision to include the film by anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield came under fire, particularly since Wakefield’s contention that vaccines have a link to autism have been discredited.
While De Niro on Friday defended the decision to include the film, he released a statement Saturday saying he had reversed his decision.
De Niro, who has a child with autism, said he had hoped to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue “that is deeply personal to me and my family.”
However, he said after he and Tribeca organizers reviewed it, “We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.” He said members of the scientific community also had reviewed it with him.
An email sent to a contact listed on the film’s official website was not immediately returned.
The makers of the documentary say they weren’t given a chance to defend the film.
“It is our understanding that persons from an organization affiliated with the festival have made unspecified allegations against the film – claims that we were given no opportunity to challenge or redress,” Wakefield and producer Del Bigtree said in a statement on Facebook.
They also remained firm that the film will be released eventually.
“Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed.”
The documentary is directed by Wakefield, who once conducted a study on the link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
The study has since been debunked, and Wakefield has since been barred from practising medicine because of a conflict of financial interest.
The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 13 to April 24.
© 2016 The Associated Press and Shaw Media