Illustration for article titled Robert De Niro Defends Anti-Vax Film Screening at Tribeca; Says It Will Allow for Conversation

Actor Robert De Niro, who cofounded the Tribeca Film Festival, has released a statement about the anti-vaccination film by former doctor Andrew Wakefield. Vaxxed is set to screen during the festival, and DeNiro’s statement suggests that he personally supports its inclusion.


De Niro and his ex-wife Grace have a son, Elliot, who has autism. De Niro says in his statement that while he is not “anti-vaccination,” he believes it’s important that “all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined.”

Wakefield authored a study implicitly suggesting a link between vaccines and autism, which was retracted in 2010, the same year Wakefield was stripped of his medical license.

Here’s De Niro’s full statement:

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


Tribeca has been roundly criticized since Vaxxed appeared on the schedule. Filmmaker Penny Lane, a Sundance Award winner, wrote an open letter criticizing the film festival for “perpetuating Wakefield’s fraud.” Tribeca issued a statement saying they are “a forum, not a judge,” an argument Lane found unconvincing:

Here is the problem with your statement: it assumes that Vaxxed is just like any other film taking on an unpopular, controversial or provocative subject. It is not. There is a big difference between advocacy and fraud, between point of view and deception. For you to claim there is no difference helps to perpetuate Wakefield’s fraud.

Also, it is disingenuous for you to claim you are not a “judge.” You are literally judging when you choose a film, from thousands of submissions, to screen under your banner.


Tribeca has a list of all the “social issue” films that are screening during the festival; interestingly, Vaxxed is not among them:


DeNiro at Tribeca 2015. Image via Getty.

Anna Merlan was a Senior Reporter at G/O Media until September 2019. She's the author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power.

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