UPDATE: Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival director David Thrussell said the committee has been on the end of an intimidating campaign since announcing it would screen Vaxxed at its October event.
“My position is it would be a tragedy if we caved to thugs and people who want to intimidate and censor,” he said.
“We expected a little heat but not this. CLIFF has been subject to a well-funded and co-ordinated campaign that has included threatening behavior, intimidation, resulted in personal Facebook pages being hacked and offensive messages sent from those (hacked) pages.”
The committee will meet tonight to determine what to do about the strong intimidation.
“We will have a meeting tonight because we are being assaulted on all fronts,” Mr Thrussell said.
“The intimidation has been particularly nasty and we received advice that the behaviour is illegal and that we should go to the police.”
Mr Thrussell said critiques sent to him about the film had come from people who had yet to see it.
“It is not an anti-vaccination film. The film is very specific about questions raised by a whistle blower.
“They are potentially significant questions into one specific vaccine and the potential evidence attached to it.
“It is not about vaccines in general and the film points that out number of times.”
In response to the Public Health Association of Australia’s comments saying the film should be withdrawn from the festival because it is “fraudulent lobbying”, Mr Thrussell said information from the film had been presented to US Congress.
“I don’t think you can call information taken to the US Congress ‘fraudulent lobbying’,” he said.
“I cant stand here and say anything definitive about the information but there are questions there, (the whistle blower featured in the film) was a highly placed scientist pressured to remove data relating a certain vaccine to autism.
“Evidence was presented to US Congress, so anyone suggesting we censor that information means withdrawing it from public.”
Mr Thrussell encouraged open discussion about the film.
“CLIFF is attempting to present information. We are not saying it is definitive, it is just information,” he said.
“An audience of adults can make up their own minds. We like to treat the pubic and audiences as adults. If we treat them as infants, they behave as infants.
“Yes (Vaxxed) was pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. I happened to be in the US at the time, which is how heard about it. I also saw (festival co-founder) Robert de Niro on the Today Show saying he regretted pulling film.”
When asked if the film was chosen because Castlemaine has a low child immunisation rate, Mr Thrussell said it was a co-incidence.
EARLIER: Australia’s peak health association has called the Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival’s decision to screen controversial anti-vaccination film Vaxxed “deplorable”.
CLIFF will take place in October with Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe scheduled to screen on October 8 at the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine.
Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Michael Moore has called the decision showed a complete lack of understanding of the impact the film could have on parents.
“They really should withdraw this film as a piece of fraudulent lobbying from a community who take the same approach as an ostrich,” he said.
Vaxxed documents the story of a high-placed whistleblower at the US Centres for Disease Control who alleged dire corruption in specific vaccine research.
Filmmaker Andrew Wakefiled is a former doctor who published research in British medical journal The Lancet that suggested vaccines cause autism.
His research has since been disproved and The Lancet retracted the article.
Mr Moore, who is also the president of the World Federation of Public Health Associations, said there was no reason to discourage people from protecting their children against disease.
“The evidence is overwhelming in favour of vaccination,” he said.
“We know this film uses examples of the discredited work of Andrew Wakefield that was published in The Lancet. It is the only article The Lancet has apologised for and withdrawn because the findings were faked.
“Why use that to discourage people from protecting children agaist disease?
“Some people can remember when children wore iron braces to support their legs because they suffered from polio.
“Nobody sees that anymore because vaccination works.”
In February, the National Health Performance Authority released a report saying the area spanning Kyneton, Heathcote and Castlemaine had the second-lowest rate of childhood immunisation (87.1 per cent) in Victoria.
The bottom spot was taken by the Melbourne CBD which had 86 per cent of children immunised.
Bendigo was listed as having 93 per cent of children aged under five immunised.
The Castlemaine Local and International Film Festival has been contacted for comment.