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Victorian film festival scraps anti-vax movie after ‘intimidation’

A small film festival in Victoria has yanked a film about vaccination from its schedule after its organisers say they faced a "campaign of intimidation" from pro-vaccination critics.

A small film festival in Victoria has yanked a film about vaccination from its schedule after its organisers say they faced a campaign of intimidation from pro-vaccination critics.

Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival announced the decision to pull Vaxxed: From Cover Up to Catastrophe from the line-up was due to pressure put on by those who say showing a “documentary” that is sympathetic to the flawed anti-vaccination argument could further confuse parents into not vaccinating their kids.

“It is with the utmost regret that CLIFF is compelled, for clear reasons of personal and public safety, to withdraw the screening from the CLIFF 2016 program,” the festival said in a statement on its Facebook page.

The idea to screen the documentary-style film was always going to be controversial.

The movie was supposed to have its premiere in April at Robert De Niro’s New York Tribeca film festival before it was scrapped from the roster after heated protests.

Before the film was even cut the festival’s creative director, David Thrussell told The Age that festival staff in Castlemaine had been subject to “a professional campaign of intimidation,” and that some of them had their Facebook accounts hacked.

“It strikes me as undemocratic to not listen to dissenting voices,” Thrussell said, which might sound reasonable until you realise that the film is directed by disgraced former-doctor Andrew Wakefield who was struck off by the UK’s General Medical Council for a controversial study linking a common children’s vaccine to autism.

Wakefield’s fraudulent 1998 study is the one that many uninformed anti-vaxxers cling to when trying to support arguments about why vaccines are bad for children.

Robert De Niro.

It should also be noted that the Castlemaine area where the film was due to be shown has low vaccination rates when comparing to the rest of the state.

News Limited reports that The Australian Medical Association Victoria states optimal rates of immunisation in an area is 95 per cent, but Castlemaine only has a 81.9 per cent rate, and just across in Kyneton rates are 79.6 per cent, according to figures from the former National Health Performance Authority.

Dr Michael Gannon, president of the Australian Medical Association told The Age that “nothing good can come from the public screening of this film.”

“Every time we see a one or two per cent reduction in the rate of vaccination in our community we give the opportunity for preventable infectious diseases to take a hold,” said Dr Gannon.

Withdrawn from Tribeca

Of his decision to dump the film from the Tribeca schedule – a film festival he co-founded – Robert De Niro later said it was something he regretted.

On the Today show in the US the actor hinted he would like to see more conversations around vaccines.

“I think the movie is something that people should see,” he said. “I, as a parent with a child who has autism, am concerned. I want to know the truth, and I’m not anti-vaccine, I want safe vaccines.”

Other than leaning on what point might be brought up in the film, De Niro failed to offer up any credible evidence to point to why current vaccines are unsafe.

De Niro revealed in April his son Elliot, 18, has autism.

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