The announcement that the film would be included at the Tribeca Film Festival was made on Tuesday and met with opposition, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, that hasn't stopped De Niro – who is a co-founder of the festival – from stepping forward and revealing that he pushed for the documentary's inclusion.
The man behind the movie is anti-vaccine leader Andrew Wakefield, who is also expected to be present at the viewing of his documentary. Wakefield has been known as a much disputed adversary of the scientific community, as some believe he distributes false information about vaccinations.
"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," De Niro, 72, said, referring to his wife and their 18-year-old son Elliot. "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. I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue."
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In 2014, De Niro talked to PEOPLE about his family and his most famous roles, sharing that he's always wanted this own kids to remember his father fondly.
Describing his dad – an expressionist painter – as "loving and affectionate," he added, "I want my children to see what their grandfather did and how he lived. It was for the family."
It seems like De Niro is taking a similar approach in his support for showing the documentary as a means of starting a conversation about an issue that many families face everyday.
Vaxxed airs on April 24 at the Tribeca Film Festival.