The Oscar-winning star had an ‘awakening’ after consulting with scientists, although initially he hoped the film would contribute to a larger discussion on autism, a misunderstood disorder that affects one of his six children.
The controversial documentary by Andrew Wakefield, a British former doctor, claims there is a link between vaccines and autism in children, particularly African-American boys.
His study was originally published in a British medical journal in 1998 before being retracted in 2010 after it was found to contain numerous flaws and was described by the journal as “an elaborate fraud.”
De Niro, who is on the board at the festival, said in a statement previously that he had asked personally for the film to be screened as he has an autistic child and wants “all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism to be openly discussed and examined.”
The actor had been defending the decision to premiere the film at the festival after allegations by scientists and filmmakers that it would legitimize Wakefield’s claims.
In his latest statement, he said that after reviewing the film with members of the “scientific community,” he said he did 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,” the statement added.
The filmmakers released their own statement Saturday night, saying they were denied “due process” in responding to claims made against their film and that the incident is an example of “the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art and truth.”
The film may have lost the glamorous launch pad of the Tribeca Film Festival, but the filmmakers are still free to distribute in the marketplace.