Andrew Wakefield has tried to make a new career for himself as a film maker. He runs a website producing YouTube and Vimeo videos in which he describes himself as “director”. He also serves as presenter. He has finished his documentary on the murder of Alex Spourdalakis, even though his fundraiser fell well short of its goal (“$9,532USD RAISED OF $200,000 GOAL”).
If one follows the link above to the Mr. Wakefield’s Autism Media Channel, one will find a trailer for his “Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis” video. The narration talks about him being treated “in the words of witnesses…like an animal…” and at 26 seconds in one sees this image:
An image from that same video is also seen at about 20 seconds into the trailer.
As one who has followed various stories in the autism community I know that video well. I know it is taken from a video that made the news. A video about a completely different autistic.
That video can be found on YouTube. It’s a story of an autistic at the Judge Rotenberg Center. I’m unaware of Mr. Wakefield speaking out on the treatment at JRC, by the way.
Perhaps in the full documentary Mr. Wakefield uses the Judge Rotenberg Video and tells his audience that it is a completely different story than the one he is discussing. But he doesn’t in the trailer. In fact, he cut the frame so that one doesn’t see where the video originated.
First rule of documentary film making–document. Don’t make things up. Don’t pull in film from some other event. The second rule would probably be: the film maker should not be part of the story. Mr. Wakefield applied his “Autism Team” to give their brand of support to the Spourdalakis family. I do question whether Mr. Spourdalakis would be alive today without that interference. Without the false hope. A question one can bet will not be addressed in an unbiased fashion, if at all, in Mr. Wakefield’s documentary.
I’ll note something else odd in that trailer. Immediately after that clip from the JRC video, one hears someone talk about “exorcism needed to be performed” and “he was possessed”. What that is all about is as much your guess as mine. Is this an example of the bad support Mr. Spourdalakis was getting before Mr. Wakefield? The type of support he got from Mr. Wakefield’s “Autism Team”?
Let’s consider another of Mr. Wakefield’s recent videos. In it, Mr. Wakefield presents a little more of the audio Brian Hooker claims are from phone calls he secretly taped with a CDC researcher. Let’s assume this is correct. At about 56 seconds in, Mr. Wakefield shows us a silhouetted figure gesturing while the recording goes on.
Dramatic, isn’t it? Looks like Team Wakefield got someone from the CDC into a room, spilling secrets galore. It’s like a bad spy movie.
Looks to this observer like the man in the silhouette is an actor, not the CDC researcher. Why? Well, the face doesn’t look like the same person. The actor isn’t wearing glasses, the most recent photos of the researcher show him with glasses. The movements of the actor don’t really match the words in the audio. The audio quality is the same as in the phone call, but the actor doesn’t have a phone. Why would he be talking on the phone if he’s in a room? Why not use a recorder in the room? One can go on and on.
Perhaps Mr. Wakefield felt that this was artistic license: he didn’t have that video, so he used an actor in a recreation of events. Except that in real documentaries, one tells the audience when one is doing a recreation.
This last bit is from another of Mr. Wakefield’s recent videos. Not really relevant to the question of how does one make a good documentary. Instead this goes to one of the common complaints one hears from Mr. Wakefield’s supporters: whether he or they can be accurately called anti-vaccine. I rarely use the term, by the way. Here’s an image from another of Mr. Wakefield’s recent videos. It’s the picture of a pregnant woman holding a vaccine. The CDC logo is overlayed on her bare stomach and flames are burning from that logo. I cropped the image to remove the text imposed upon it.
How should we classify such an action? Is this an example of the methods of the “pro safe vaccine” community (as they sometimes like to be called)?
Mr. Wakefield’s new career as a film maker is an interesting choice. Frankly, he has a lot to learn.
By Matt Carey