The filmmaking team behind the documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe insists that their movie isn’t anti-vaccination, defending their project after it was pulled from the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival.
There was a huge backlash from the public, prompting festival organizers — including Tribeca film festival co-founder Robert De Niro — to pull it from its movie lineup.
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.
In response to its abrupt removal from the festival, Vaxxed director Dr. Andrew Wakefield, along with producers Del Bigtree and Polly Tommey and distributor Phillipe Diaz, held a press conference in Studio City, Calif. on Wednesday to address their film and its subject matter.
Despite a trailer that seems very anti-vaccination, Wakefield and his colleagues insist it is not, and it’s the media’s influence that got the movie yanked from the festival.
“I am the one who suggested we bring it to Tribeca, which I now feel very bad about,” said Diaz. “The New Yorker is comparing the filmmakers at this table to Leni Riefenstahl,” he said, referencing a Nazi film propagandist. “You think, ‘Are they smoking too much?'”
Bigtree, who has some experience producing medical-themed TV shows, added: “This is not an anti-vaccine movie. This is a movie about making vaccines safer. 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.”
As a director and medical doctor, Wakefield is in the crosshairs of media scrutiny, and was blunt with his thoughts. “The media have been duped, willingly or not. And the public has been duped.”
Wakefield conducted a study — published in 1998 in The Lancet — which concluded there’s a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorders. The study was debunked and retracted, and Wakefield has since been barred from practicing medicine because of a conflict of financial interest.
Vaxxed is slated to premiere on Friday in New York City at the Angelika Film Center. At the press conference, Diaz said that Angelika is starting to receive angry emails and phone calls from protesters, and fears they may have to cancel the premiere.
“If everything goes well, we will be in 500 theatres,” said Diaz. “We will screen this movie for free if we have to.”
With autism rates rising all across North America, there is a population of people who firmly believe that vaccinations cause or are directly related to autism.
With Wakefield’s study debunked, there is no evidence from any study that connects the vaccines to autism spectrum disorder.
(You can watch the trailer, above, to see if you think Vaxxed is anti-vaccination or not, as the filmmakers claim.)
With files from The Associated Press