I’m going to be honest: VAXXED: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe is a film I debated reviewing. You can’t necessarily critique Andrew Wakefield’s exposé on vaccines and their potential Autistic influence without chiming in with personal opinions. As far as grading the actual filmmaking, it’s obvious that Wakefield is concerned more about facts than shot composition.
Then, I snapped out of it: no matter how a movie goer feels about a certain topic, a documentarian is still allowed to state their case. It’s just a matter of how they present it.
In the case of VAXXED, Wakefield – a gastroenterologist who is interviewed many times during the film – has collected mounds of information, but his presentation is shoddy. He uses unauthorized whistle-blowing recordings of CDC scientist William W. Thompson, and Wakefield has also interviewed professionals and parents (including Polly and Jonathan Tommey, founders of The Autism File) about the connection between a child receiving the MMR vaccine and the regressive aftermath. These segments, however, have been edited by someone who has seen one too many scary movies. Whenever autistic children are mentioned, the comments are followed by distressing footage of tantrums and downward spirals. Wakefield wants to bring audiences a straight-shooting documentary, but VAXXED made me wince at how often subjects are suggested to be “damaged goods”.
VAXXED also lacks sufficient opposition. The film gives viewers an idea of how this controversial debate is perceived by the media, but this biased flick is more interested in displaying its own version of the truth. Because the audience isn’t presented with a balanced argument, movie goers can’t make up their mind on whether the proposed facts are substantial or not. If a filmmaker shields rebuttals, it’s a severe blow to the film’s confidence and legitimacy.
Many people involved with VAXXED have too much skin in the game. A project like this needs to be helmed by an outsider. Not necessarily a hired hand who understands how to point-and-shoot, but a sensitive storyteller who can properly trust the audience and divide the film’s runtime.
I’m not qualified to rate Andrew Wakefield’s studies, but I can make this call: he shouldn’t have directed this movie.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie