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So why did Robert De Niro, axe Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed, from the Tribeca Film Festival?

Updated on March 28, 2016

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Robert De Niro is C-Founder of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York
Robert De Niro is C-Founder of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York

Robert De Niro issues a statement about Vaxxed: From Cover up to Catasrophe.

On Friday and Saturday this week the headlines were burgeoning with images of the iconic Robert De Niro. He had just released a statement taking a very firm stance on defending his recent decision to include a new documentary at the Tribeca Film festival this April. For those of us that hadn’t heard of the Tribeca film festival before it was the brainchild of Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff. The Tribeca Film festival began in 2002 and it has been stated that this was subsequent to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre which led to the deterioration of the Tribeca area of Lower Manhattan. Although others claim it was underway before the September 11 attacks.

Whichever is more factual the mission of the festival according to Wikipedia is "to enable the international film community and the general public to experience the power of film by redefining the film festival experience. The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan.”

Initial Robert De Niro statement defending screening of Vaxxed

Robert De Niro endorsed Andrew Wakefield's documentary - Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catasrophe

However this year’s festival has garnered a lot of attention for an entirely different reason. The internet caught fire over the past few days with regards to a documentary that was to be shown on the last day of the festival on April 24th next. This documentary is called, ‘Vaxxed – From cover up to catastrophe.’ While the title in itself may be considered controversial in many quarters the real issue that had everyone up in arms is the fact that the co-writer and director of this documentary is none other than the infamous Dr Andrew Wakefield.

Just to very briefly reiterate the story of this controversial figure Dr Andrew Wakefield was a Gastroenterologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London in 1998. At this time Dr Wakefield and a number of other Gastroenterologists led by Professor John Walker Smith (who still practices medicine in the UK)did a study on 12 children who all had bowel inflammation and other issues such as chronic pain, diarrhea and constipation. Incidentally these children also had a psychological diagnosis and all were developmentally delayed with the majority being autistic. Later the controversy surrounding this study spiralled when it was revealed that the vaccine strain of the measles virus was found on analysis of the gut biopsies of these children. All these participants in the study also had the same type of bowel inflammation which was identified as a new type of bowel disease which was subsequently called autistic enterocolitis.

Official trailer for controversial documentary Vaxxed' From Cover-Up to Catasrophe

Andrew Wakefield is a very controversial figure - Why is this?

Dr. Wakefield and the other researchers involved then suggested that this warranted further investigation of the issue. That was the beginning of the media onslaught that still continues unabated. Even now almost two decades later it seems that whenever there is any whiff of any suggestion of a discussion about the efficacy and safety of vaccines anywhere in the world then the media roll out their usual speech about this 1998 Lancet paper by the former now discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield. This paper was subsequently retracted and the reasons for this are still debated by many but the constant revival of this now eighteen year old paper still has to happen every-time vaccines are mentioned. This is now very unfortunate for all the children (my own son included) who do live with chronic bowel pain, as this valid medical condition gets continuously overlooked in these children because of a controversy twenty years ago that the media cannot move beyond. Instead they use it as a stick to beat Andrew Wakefield with incessantly regurgitating the same story over and over. Which is so very unfortunate as instead the media could concentrate on raising some much needed awareness for these vulnerable, often non-verbal, bowel diseased children.

The most disturbing part of the incessant criticism of this infamous Lancet paper is that for anyone who actually reads it does not even state anywhere within it that there is any definite link between Vaccination and autism. However the media seem oblivious to this little known fact. For me as the parent of a child diagnosed with bowel disease I just feel this is really preventing the discussion of the advancements and research of the prevalence of bowel disease in children and adults who also have an autism diagnosis. It is so frustrating that any chance that there might be to raise awareness of all the published scientific studies in the area of bowel disease and autism are always instantly dismissed as if there was never any other paper written on this topic except one infamous retracted Lancet paper.

It now seems that these same sticks are out again with regards to the documentary: Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catasrophe. It just seems that usually there is huge controversy surrounding a film or documentary only after it has been viewed and not before it has even been seen. Yet like the retracted paper known as: ‘Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children,’ the huge barrage of criticism for this documentary is coming from media sources who have not as of yet even viewed the documentary.

Subsequent to the Dr Andrew Wakefield debacle he left the UK with his family and moved to Austin Texas where he worked as a doctor and a researcher for a time. After this he and another autism activist known as Polly Tommey set up the Autism Media Channel whose aim has been to reach out to a wider audience with issues relating to autism that are often side-lined in the main stream media most often for political and corporate reasons.

Del Bigtree - Producer of Vaxxed - defends his documentary

Why did Robert De Niro endorse and then remove Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival?

Anyway to get back to Robert De Niro’s endorsement of the new documentary which has just been completed by Andrew Wakefield and his team, including well renowned Producer Del Bigtree. It is called; ‘Vaxxed – From Cover-up to Catasrophe,’ and on Friday the 24th March Robert De Niro released a written statement saying the following:

“Grace [Hightower, De Niro’s wife] 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.”

Once this had been released the internet caught fire and the usual condemnation of anything connected to Andrew Wakefield began. Once again we had a regurgitation of the usual references to retracted papers and disgraced and the favourite buzz word ‘debunked.’ However now the pharmaceutical trolls were turning on Robert De Niro also and it was irrelevant to them that he had stated that he already clearly stated he was not even anti-vaccine. As usual this was considered to be irrelevant information and he was now going to be lumped in there with everyone else who dares to even question or even just want a discussion about the safety issues surrounding vaccination.

However it does appear now that Robert De Niro might have been a bit naïve in thinking that he could endorse a documentary about vaccination and a cover-up by a CDC (Centre for Disease Control), Scientist and his team without upsetting the huge might of the Pharmaceutical industry. Whose other corporate interests do include owning approximately 90% of the media outlets in the U.S. Apparently De Niro had met with Congressman Posey on Friday before making the announcement. Bill Posey is a politician who has been actively trying to get the CDC prosecuted for this fraudulent activity. He advocates very strongly that there needs to be a proper investigation carried out with regards to practices within the CDC especially with regards to this scientific study into the MMR and autism.

Therefore it is rather hard to comprehend that Robert De Niro could not have known that there would be a serious media backlash against him and the Tribeca Film Festival if he did endorse this documentary. Going on this premise perhaps he should have taken a few more days to think about it before including the documentary and it would seem apparent now that the Festival Committee should have been clearer on the matter before releasing statements about it also.

Congressman Bill Posey speaks about CDC Cover-up

Robert De Niro and his wife Grace Hightower have a teenage son with autism
Robert De Niro and his wife Grace Hightower have a teenage son with autism
Robert De Niro did not realize what a controversy he was unleashing
Robert De Niro did not realize what a controversy he was unleashing
Under pressure Robert De Niro axed Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival
Under pressure Robert De Niro axed Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival
Tribeca Film Festival runs from 13th to 24th of April
Tribeca Film Festival runs from 13th to 24th of April
Dr Andrew Wakefield at the hearing regardig his Medical Licence with his wife Carmel.
Dr Andrew Wakefield at the hearing regardig his Medical Licence with his wife Carmel.
One day after strongly defending Vaxxed it is removed from the Tribeca Film festival
One day after strongly defending Vaxxed it is removed from the Tribeca Film festival

Is freedom of speech still an important right?

Do you value your free speech and should we be allowed to watch this documentary and decide for ourselves?

See results

Vaxxed considered too controversial for the Tribeca Film Festival?

It is very disappointing for all those who were excited about this documentary been given such a high profile launch and rather surprising that a man such as Robert De Niro caved in and removed, Vaxxed-From Cover-up to Catasrophe, only twenty four hours after such a strong endorsement of it. This is the statement that was released Saturday evening:

“My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”

You would imagine if this issue was deeply personal to Robert De Niro and his family that he would at the very least have watched the documentary before putting it in the festival programme? Autism is very personal to me and my family also and given the nature of this documentary I would have high tailed it home and made sure I watched the documentary and checked the validity of its content before I included it for viewing at a world renowned film festival.

Also as Robert De Niro’s original statement says he wanted ‘to begin a discussion about the issues raised,’ in Vaxxed-From Cover-up to Catasrophe, you would imagine that he would have known what those issues were before including the documentary in the Tribeca Film Festival. Also the fact that the retraction statement says Robert De Niro subsequently decided to review the documentary with members of the scientific community but when later questioned he couldn’t even give any name of who these members of the scientific community might be, once again indicates that pressure from corporate sponsors of the festival and perhaps from Government representatives were ultimately the most likely reasons for Robert De Niro’s complete twenty four hour change of mind.

However in summary it was very brave of Robert De Niro to endorse the film to begin with and in doing so it has ensured that Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catasrophe, is now receiving unprecedented publicity on a scale that it would not have otherwise received. To use the words of Oscar Wilde seem appropriate here:

‘The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.’

There have also been some so far unsubstantiated and speculative statements being made on the Social Media that perhaps Robert De Niro already knew that the other members of the festival committee and/or their corporate sponsors would not ultimately allow ‘Vaxxed-From Controversy to Cover-Up,’ to be part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s programme. That the purpose of this scandal was to garner a huge amount of publicity for the documentary and to highlight the fact that free speech and the right to an opposing view are just not applicable when it comes to discussing the issue of vaccination. That the real purpose of his statements were in fact to highlight the lack of freedom to speak surrounding this issue.

However at present all involved are giving no indication that this might be the case. Instead it seems likely pressure from the Tribeca Film Festival Committee, its sponsors and political interests led to Robert De Niro to removing the documentary from the Tribeca Festival programme. Yet nothing gets people interested in something more than if it has been banned censored or is viewed as too controversial for general viewing. Yet why a documentary produced by a such a well-respected Producer as Del Bigtree would be considered too controversial for general viewing remains rather a dubious theory.

Here is what Del Bigtree and Andrew Wakefield had to say about Tribeca’s U-turn.

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. We were denied due process.

We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth,” their statement said. “Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed.”

CDC Whistleblower is the focus of the documentary Vaxxed
CDC Whistleblower is the focus of the documentary Vaxxed

Should people be allowed to make their own minds up about Vaxxed or not?

More details are unavailable at present but it seems that the documentary will be launched at another venue not yet disclosed.

Also an article published yesterday Sunday 27th by Mike Adams of Naturalnews.com stated the following about the axing of Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival:

‘This is the first time in the history of film and media that the totality of the media establishment has condemned a film that none of them have ever viewed, desperately trying to make sure no American ever witnesses the hour and a half of film footage that is now "forbidden" to be viewed in a nation founded on free speech.’

So in conclusion the real issue here appears to be much bigger than just the banning of a documentary. It appears instead that Robert De Niro was pressurized into removing Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catasrophe, from the Tribeca Film Festival. As in America (and globally), it is now believed to be in the public interest to not allow them to view the contents of the documentary and make their own minds up about it. Instead corporate interests are now deciding what is suitable viewing for us all as we are deemed to be incompetent and would not be able to understand the facts presented in the documentary. The premise being that the general population is no longer intelligent enough to make their own minds up about information that is presented to them i.e. we would be taken in by lies, fraudulent claims and pseudoscience and by the babblings of lunatics and guys wearing tinfoil hats etc., That is the image presented in the media and any credibility afforded must be removed and censored for the greater good.

Alternatively the only other explanation is that the contents of the documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catasrophe: are actually credible and valid and therefore must not be revealed to the general public or endorsed by any high profile sources as this would ultimately cause too much of a backlash.

Ultimately whatever the reason for the media’s panic over this documentary, people need exercise their right to make up their own minds and watch the documentary and have the discussions about it that Robert De Niro wanted. Or alternatively just agree that the powers that be know what’s best for us.

Andrew Wakefield speaking at Autism One Conference

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    • Maurine Meleck profile image

      Maurine Meleck 9 months ago

      The second reason is correct. There is validity to the film and the powers that be do not want the public to see this-lest they stop vaccinating. All of this is a construct to control the people of the US(and the world) with most aspects of their human lives-and with this, their medical needs or non-needs. That's how the elite corporations make money and influence others.

      MMeleck

    • Cameron 9 months ago

      Censorship at its finest.

    • Misfit Chick profile image

      Catherine Mostly 9 months ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

      It was kind of brave of Robert DeNiro to stand up at first - especially given that he seemed so genuinely sincere about his motives for allowing the film in Tribeca. But, his 'dismissal' of his original convictions is weird. Surely he would not have made the original statement if he didn't know that it was a controvercial topic that was going to need an endorsement such as that. He caved under pressure - and that in and of itself should cause people concern. Why would he 'flip' like that so soon? Coercement, probably. Yeah, it is really sad the way the media controls the perceptions of the majority.

      Btw, I just read an odd book by an old 'healer' - she could read people's energies. Someone brought a child to her who wasn't autistic; but she had cronic bowel problems and was getting cysts all over her body. Doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. The 'diagonsis' (always taken with a grain of salt) was that she she had candida and innoculation residue affecting her system. This lady also said that babies and children can also be affected by the innoculation residue from their mothers. Yikes, if that is true. Unfortunately, the book did not include the lady's homeopathic remedy - which supposedly cleared things up after a time.

      I'm not a big believer in vaccinations; and yet I can certainly see why they may be needed, also. I don't have enough information. I would have liked to see this film stir up that conversation. Maybe all this swirling publicity will help.

    • crankalicious profile image

      crankalicious 9 months ago from Colorado

      There's no credible evidence whatsoever that vaccines cause autism. None. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't understand science and is not credible. Anybody who suggests that children not be vaccinated is a danger to society.

    • thewritingowl profile image
      Author

      Mary Kelly Godley 9 months ago from Ireland

      Thank you both for your comments. With regards to your comment crankalicious, did you read this article that you are commenting on? I am concerned that you may not have. AS 'Vaxxed: From Coverup to Controversy,' is about the events of a whistleblower who for many years worked as a Scientist and Researcher for the CDC (Centre for Disease Control), and he now claims to have a lot of evidence of a CDC study that he was in charge of in which the team have found a connection between MMR and Autism, in specific groups of children. There is currently a Congressman known as Bill Posey trying to get this case pursued against the CDC based on the evidence that this scientist has presented to prove that there has been very serious fraud committed in the suppression of vital scientific information that may have affected the health of countless children. So perhaps you are speaking too soon when you say there is no scientific study as it would appear that now there does seem to have been a scientific study that is being deliberately suppressed by the very people who have been assigned to oversee the safety and efficacy of the vaccination schedule for all our children. That is what the documentary is about and that is why there is so much controversy. This was a serious criminal offence and if it is proven to be true, has been responsible for the grievous injury or even death of many children. Also there are also countless scientific studies that confirm that certain subsets of children who are genetically predisposed can be seriously injured or can even die after vaccines so therefore please do your research and take these children into account before making such a blanket statement that can seriously injure a minority of children. Vaccines are necessary but we need to use them with caution taking contraindications more seriously and certainly we need to see all the scientific evidence and that's why this documentary is so crucial and must be seen as the allegations within it are very concerning for every parent.

    • RJ Schwartz profile image

      Ralph Schwartz 9 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

      Do any of you have children with autism....I do. Do your own homework on the topic like I did. The British doctor who started the whole thing has withdrawn his research and there has NEVER been any scientific evidence to support the theory. Don't rely on a movie to tell you something.

    • Misfit Chick profile image

      Catherine Mostly 9 months ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

      I'm pretty sure that we were not talking about a movie 'telling us something' - we wanted the conversation to be opened up and the theory considered - possibly leading to more serious scientific research. It seems like a good idea, considering some of the indicators. Did you read the article - or even the author's previous explanation in the comments above? She seems to have some good reasons to want it considered; and 'autism is personal in her family'. I think that gives her a valid foundation to be concerned about this issue.

    • thewritingowl profile image
      Author

      Mary Kelly Godley 9 months ago from Ireland

      Thanks to you Misfit Chick and RJ Schwartz for commenting. Yes I have a child with multiple psychological and medical conditions one being a diagnosis of autism. He also has many other conditions which are consistent in children who have had adverse reactions to vaccinatio And yes I do have room fulls of scientific studies and medical reports to verify what I am stating. I feel I have also explained myself well in my article and in my previous comments. if you disagree then so be it. That's your choice. Also please read my comment above also as this is a non-fiction documentary as opposed to a movie.

    • crankalicious profile image

      crankalicious 9 months ago from Colorado

      I don't think anti-vaxxers comprehend the danger if large groups of people decided to stop getting their children vaccinated. Actually, we're starting to see them: huge increases in the number of cases of whooping cough and measles. But these are just minor things. Imagine the return of polio. There's actually evidence to suggest that autism is caused by the flu virus present during pregnancy. That said, people don't seem to grasp that in any large complex system, there are always going to be outliers. Science does not guarantee anything 100%, but what science does do is try to determine what benefits the vast majority and reduces risk overall. No matter the system or the drug or whatever, if something is 99.5% effective, there will always be .5% where it doesn't work correctly or something else is at play. Let's say that science proves conclusively that without vaccines, 3.5% of all unvaccinated children would contract Polio and die while with vaccines, .005% of children will suffer some form of neurological trauma. Do you determine as a parent that it's safer to go without vaccines? If so, you can't do math. Actually, the risk of dying in a car accident on your way to the clinic to get vaccines is higher than the risk of something going wrong with the vaccine, so that's actually a more logical reason not to get vaccinated. This all said, if your child is one of the .005% where something goes wrong, it sucks beyond all reason.

    • thewritingowl profile image
      Author

      Mary Kelly Godley 9 months ago from Ireland

      The article or the documentary I am writing about are not anti-vaccine so I don't know why you are intent on dwelling on the issue. I could argue your points but that is not my aim form this article so please find one that is anti-vaccine and continue.

    • crankalicious profile image

      crankalicious 9 months ago from Colorado

      The man behind the film, Andrew Wakefield, has been proven to be a fraud. It's like following a film on investing done by Bernie Madoff.

    • thewritingowl profile image
      Author

      Mary Kelly Godley 9 months ago from Ireland

      Thanks for commenting again. Andrew Wakefield is not the only 'man behind the film.' There are many others also. Interesting though that you should mention fraud as at least you got something correct about this i.e. that in my article the documentary is indeed about fraud i.e. the suppression and alteration of a scientific study carried about by the Centre for Disease Control concerning the investigation of a possible scientific link between MMR and autism. The scientist at the centre of the controversy is Dr Brian Hooker and he has a lot to say about fraud do be sure to watch it as if fraud is your particular area of interest you should be intrigued by it.

    • crankalicious profile image

      crankalicious 9 months ago from Colorado

      I wouldn't be interested because Dr. Wakefield is behind the film, which means that it is fraudulent. Dr. Wakefield makes stuff up. Dr. Wakefield's claim to fame is that he made a bunch of stuff up and passed it off as science.

    • thewritingowl profile image
      Author

      Mary Kelly Godley 9 months ago from Ireland

      Well thanks for your open minded, scientifically motivated response, crankalicious, it sums your enquiring mind up to a T and I must say it brought a smile to my lips.

    • crankalicious profile image

      crankalicious 9 months ago from Colorado

      Well, if O.J. Simpson promotes a film on domestic bliss, I'm probably not going to watch that either.

    • thewritingowl profile image
      Author

      Mary Kelly Godley 9 months ago from Ireland

      Good for you crankalicious, I am very happy that you shared that thought with me.

    • Paciaiev4 5 months ago

      Very poorly written article. You are a public menace and your drivel should be brought to the attention of public health departments. You are danger to society.

    • Mary Godley 5 months ago

      Ah Paciaiev4, thats a bit harsh but I forgive you as I am the better person. Toodle Doo.

    • thewritingowl profile image
      Author

      Mary Kelly Godley 5 months ago from Ireland

      Ah Paciaiev, that's a bit harsh I feel. Never mind though I am the better person so I will forgive you.

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