Sunday, May 26, 2024

Have Some Sympathy for Robert De Niro In the Debate Over Including Anti-Vaccination Film: He’s a Father, and a Human Being


If you’re just catching up to this now: the Tribeca Film Festival has pulled a controversial doc from an anti-vaccination nut who thinks Autism is caused by protecting children from diseases.

Andrew Wakefield’s film, called “Vaxxed: From Cover Up to Catastrophe,” was chosen, it seems, by Tribeca co founder Robert De Niro himself, to start a conversation about he causes of Autism. Very fast in the last 24 hours, people went bonkers about the inclusion of the film. Wakefield is a known nut in this area.

But what no one knew– until De Niro himself felt compelled to mention in his own defense– is that his son with wife Grace Hightower is autistic. He wrote: “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.”

What did people think, that De Niro embraces kooks for no reason at all? Parents of autistic children are desperate for answers. You can’t blame the De Niro’s for listening to anyone with ideas. Fortunately, their son is high-functioning. But he is autistic nonetheless. The De Niros are some of the nicest people you could hope to meet. Their screening of Wakefield’s film was not a clarion call to end vaccinations.

De Niro said in a statement later today: “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.”

Have a heart, people. Robert DeNiro has given you 40 years of entertainment. His intention here was not to cause World War III. Maybe he wanted a little solace, and some answers. He’s human, after all.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News