Coming to theatres today, Friday, September 29:
THE PATHOLOGICAL OPTIMIST
Manhattan Film Festival 2017
A portrait of Andrew Wakefield, vilified by the media and by the medical community for his now discredited stance about linkages between vaccines and autism.
Wakefield was at the center of a controversy at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival when an uproar over the inclusion of VAXXED, a film he directed, ultimately resulted in its being pulled from the lineup because of dubious medical claims. While Wakefield’s supporters classified the move as censorship, his detractors instead held the opinion that the film was a work of propaganda that should never have been programmed in the first place. Bailey’s film begins long before this episode, following the now unlicensed doctor as he reckons with the aftermath of his debunked vaccine claims by filing an anti-defamation suit against the British Medical Journal and journalist Brian Deer in Texas, funded largely be a loyal fanbase of anti-vaxxers, who view Wakefield as a hero who gives them hope. Through the well-made film, which focuses almost exclusively on Wakefield and his wife Carmel – positioned here as some sort of default expert, given how much screen time she is allotted – the frankly unlikeable couple defend each charge against Wakefield and play the martyr, blaming a collusion of Big Pharma and a corrupt media for all their ills. Bailey, for her part, never explicitly takes a side, but in providing such controversial subjects as the Wakefields with a platform to continue to espouse their, at best, misunderstood, at worst, deliberately misleading, views, without any real challenge from medical professionals, she treads on ethically troubling terrain.