The Tribeca Film Festival has canceled its screenings of the controversial anti-vaccination film, Vaxxed: From Cover Up to Catastrophe, after widespread criticism erupted over the weekend aimed at both the filmmakers and the festival. Festival founder Robert De Niro initially defended the inclusion of the film, which purports a link between vaccines and autism, stating on Friday that he and his wife have an autistic son and that he wanted there to be a “discussion” around the film’s theories.
Facing widespread criticism over the weekend pointing to director Andrew Wakefield’s history with the subject matter — he lost his medical license and had a study retracted over the supposed link between vaccines and autism — De Niro and the festival reversed their decision.
Wakefield and producer Del Bigtree issued a statement saying Tribeca’s decision was just “another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth.” The filmmakers said the festival had bowed to pressure from its powerful sponsors.
The “anti-vaxx movement,” has become a lightning rod for discourse in recent years. A 2015 measles outbreak at Disney fueled the debate over whether the “anti-vaxx” movement actually posed a threat to public health. In the wake of the outbreak Slate reported on studies that found that it is most often mothers who make healthcare decisions for their family and that women are more likely to believe information about vaccines that they see in the media.