Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, 2016, 2 stars

Vaxxed  vexes

Controversial vaccination doc is compelling but flawed

VaxxedExclusive to MeierMovies, June 3, 2016

In journalism, sources are everything. So despite raising legitimate questions about vaccination policies, Vaxxed – the controversial documentary that was just booted from the Tribeca Film Festival – fails because its writer, director and principal interviewee, Andrew Wakefield, is the very man whose 1998 landmark research paper on the topic was discredited.

Its creator may not pass the smell test, but, surprisingly, much of the film does. This is not the garbage propaganda you might expect. Instead, it’s a well-shot, well-edited and gripping piece that simply should have been made by filmmakers with greater objectivity and credibility.

Though no comprehensive scientific studies have proved the connection between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, most of the questions the film raises deserve to be asked, if only so they can be disproved once and for all. Yes, the doc ventures into slightly exploitative and just plain inaccurate territory by conjecturing that autism might affect 80 percent of boys by 2032. And it successfully tugs at your heartstrings by showing families torn apart by the disease. But it also takes the high ground at times, methodically laying out its case for why more research is needed, why the United States “Vaccine Court” needs overhauling, why the MMR shot should be broken into individual vaccines and, most importantly, why Centers for Disease Control (CDC) whistleblower Dr. William Thompson should be subpoenaed by Congress to reveal what he knows about a potentially flawed CDC vaccine study.

The film never argues against vaccinations altogether, and that’s a good thing, as a widespread rejection of vaccines would threaten the lives of both children and adults. And, thankfully, it doesn’t get preachy until the end, when it suggests a series of steps we should take. It also isn’t afraid to admit it doesn’t have all the answers, but, in presenting its theories anyway, it risks encouraging parents to reject the MMR vaccine, which is bad advice from someone such as Wakefield.

I pause mid-review to remind you I’m not a scientist. So the last thing you should do is take medical suggestions from me, or anyone except a doctor. I’m simply a curious person who, like you, has been told that all vaccinations are safe. So when Vaxxed challenges that accepted truth with veracity and intellectual passion, it’s impossible not to take notice.

But I AM a journalist. So when a film’s main sources are its filmmakers – one of whom has been stripped of his medical license – and the aforementioned Thompson, whose voice was recorded for the movie without his knowledge, I can’t offer my endorsement. Still, for those of you like Robert DeNiro whose life has been affected by autism, this film will mean something. But, like DeNiro – who first championed the film at Tribeca before rejecting it – I won’t in good conscience embrace it.

The people who have tried to quash the film – many of whom have either not seen it or work for companies that manufacture vaccines – deserve criticism too. In a free society, audiences should make their own informed choices about their health by being exposed to all available information. And if the documentary prompts a CDC study that finally uncovers what is really behind the horrendous growth of autism over the last 40 years, then perhaps it won’t be for naught.

© 2016 MeierMovies, LLC