By: Pari Heidari, Larry King Now
Robert De Niro, actor and co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, has pulled the anti-vaccination film Vaxxed from the festival's line-up after reviewing it with festival organizers and scientists.
De Niro, who seemed adamant in his support as recently as Friday, told the press, "We have concerns with certain things in this film." He added that they "do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for."
Mr. De Niro confessed his involvement in programming is usually minimal, but said the topic of vaccination was “very personal to me and my family.” The actor is father to an autistic child and was reportedly hoping the film would spark new debate regarding the potential risks of vaccines.
Mr. De Niro released a statement together with wife, Grace Hightower on Friday, defending the decision to screen the film.
“Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca film festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming.
“However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening Vaxxed," the actor stated. "I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.”
Vaxxed was directed and co-written by anti-vaccination activist and former British surgeon Andrew Wakefield. The film, which Mr. Wakefield calls a "whistleblower documentary," strives to link autism to the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) but has been widely discredited and criticized.
It is yet unclear if De Niro's decision to initially include the film will have any effect on the reputation of the festival. What is obvious, however, is that it's caused furor among doctors, health campaigners and filmmakers alike.
For something a little more lighthearted, watch De Niro discuss his comedy movie Last Vegas together with Hollywood legends Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and Mary Steenburgen.
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