March 25, 2016 6:52 pm

Robert De Niro defends decision to show film about anti-vaccination movement

In this April 27, 2013 file photo, actor Robert De Niro attends "The King of Comedy" screening in New York.

Photo by Dario Cantatore/Invision/AP

Robert De Niro is defending his decision to screen a controversial film about the anti-vaccination movement at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, is described on the Tribeca Film Festival’s website as “digging into the long-debated link between autism and vaccines.”

The decision to screen it at the prestigious film festival in New York in April has come under fire on social media because of the abundance of scientific data that disproves the link.

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De Niro, who co-founded the festival, responded to the criticism Friday saying the issue is personal to him because he has a son with autism.

“I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue,” he wrote in a statement.

The documentary is directed by Andrew 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.

People are blasting the film festival for propagating dangerous information.

“This threatens the credibility of not just the other filmmakers in your doc slate, but the field in general,” filmmaker Penny Lane wrote in an open letter to the Tribeca Film Festival.

“The problem is not that Vaxxed is controversial… The problem is that it is dangerous misinformation being legitimized under the banner of your considerable prestige.”

Officials at the festival maintain that it is about “dialogue and conversation.”

The film will be shown on April 24, 2016, in New York.

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