Earlier this month, Robert De Niro got us all riled up when he scheduled an anti-vaxxing documentary into the Tribeca Film Festival. He then got us further riled when he pulled the film (because of said rile), then went on Today to talk about how he regretted that decision. It was frustrating that this kind of idiotic and potentially dangerous misinformation trend was getting so much attention, but at least it wasn’t being screened at the festival anymore, right?
Oh, except you know what it turns out film studio executives love more than anything else? Attention and ire. Just a few days after the film was pulled, documentary distributors Cinema Libre Studio bought the distribution rights to the film. They say that neither it nor Andrew Wakefield, the author of the book the doc is based on, are anti-vaccine. This manipulative poster seems to say otherwise, but hey, I guess we’ll take their word for it.
Who is “they”? People who don’t want to see young children killed by measles simply because some nutjobs refuse to believe conspiracy theory propaganda over actual and overwhelming scientific evidence? Then yes, “they” don’t want anyone to see this movie.
Now, in addition to the documentary, the film rights to the book have been acquired by screenwriter Terry Rossio and someone named Dr. Jocelyn Stamat. Rossio is best known for all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, as well as Shrek and The Lone Ranger. Which means if this movie gets made, it will likely have a very large budget and not be very good. (No knocks to Shrek. Just… pretty much everything else.) As for Stamat, there’s not much to be found on her. She’s a California doctor who also happens to have co-created a webseries with Rossio back in 2008 called Turbo Dating, and nothing else. Oh, and she wrote a lengthy comment on a 2009 NYT article, “Bill Maher vs. the Flu Vaccine.” Thanks, Google.
In addition to the book the documentary was based upon, Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines — The Truth Behind a Tragedy, the pair has also acquired Wakefield’s life rights. From Variety,
The book details the key events surrounding the 1998 paper in the British medical journal the Lancet, co-authored by Wakefield, that asserted that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to autism. Wakefield was accused of professional misconduct and falsifying information in that study, and the Lancet retracted the piece in 2010 and the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council revoked Wakefield’s medical license.
“Dr. Wakefield is clearly a polarizing figure, reviled by the general public yet also revered by many,” Rossio said. “The details and drama surrounding his life are even more remarkable than generally known.”
So what are the odds that this movie isn’t going to be the story of an underdog Cassandra figure, but maybe instead that of a disgraced lunatic who managed to brainwash a bunch of paranoid parents? Can we hope? Please?