After being dropped from premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, the controversial vaccination documentary "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” is coming to the Los Angeles area. The picture from Andrew Wakefield will open Friday at Santa Monica's Laemmle Monica Film Center and Pasadena's Laemmle Playhouse 7.
The film drew headlines earlier this year after it was accepted at the Tribeca Film Festival. With Wakefield -- known for his decades-long efforts to assert a connection between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism -- as director, a backlash caused the film to be removed from the festival's lineup. The festival cited "sponsors’ interests" as a contributing factor in the decision.
In response, distributors Cinema Libre Studio released a statement defending Wakefield and his film.
"The media storm over the last few weeks shows how the hyper mediatization of all issues works, with the mainstream media condemning a film they never even saw and its director, Dr. Wakefield, for claims which have been answered for years and rebuked," said Chairman Philippe Diaz. "The movie is not anti-vaccine and neither is Dr. Wakefield. But unfortunately we live in a time where scandal is valued more than the truth. That is what this film is fighting for: the right to know!"
Richard Castro, the studio's head of distribution added: "The film is not anti-vaccine but rather advocates for the use of the single measles, single mumps and single rubella vaccines instead of the MMR triple vaccine, which has been linked to autism by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] study which is at the heart of this film."
The WorldFest-Houston Film Festival also dropped the film from its lineup after the city's mayor threatened to pull funding for the event.
Wakefield helped launch the anti-vaccine movement with a 1998 paper in the Lancet that drew a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and higher rates of autism. Many scientists have since refuted the claim, and the British General Medical Council would go on to find Wakefield guilty of three dozen charges in connection with his research, including four counts of dishonesty and 12 counts involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children. He was also barred from practicing medicine in Britain. The Lancet retracted the paper.
Wakefield, though, has pressed on and has now taken the fight to the medium of cinema. "Vaxxed" opened in New York to more than $41,000 in its first week on just one screen.
Though many of the Santa Monica showings of the film, which will be accompanied by a Q&A session, have sold out, tickets can still be purchased.
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