Virulent: The Vaccine War

Line illustration of people forming a virus-like shape
Line illustration of people forming a virus-like shape

A brand new kind of warfare

About the Film

Virulent: The Vaccine War examines the consequences of vaccine hesitancy and denial. It’s a war anti-vax activists have been fighting for more than a decade. And Covid-19 is what they practiced for—a national conversation about vaccine safety and mandates.

I have a lot of patients who may be hesitant about vaccines, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it brings reality and smacks you in the face. Sadly, the anti-vaccine community began to co-opt the pandemic and started spinning conspiracy theories.
—Dr. Todd Wolynn

I don’t need any conspiracy to create job security for infectious diseases. Nature and the world create that just fine.
—Dr. John V. Williams

Mother Nature has been trying to kill us ever since we crawled out of the ocean onto land. The only reason we live 30 years longer than we did a hundred years ago is because we fought back actively and hard.
—Dr. Paul Offit

If you have the power to not cause harm to anybody else, you should use that.
—Hannah Grinnan (heart transplant recipient)

The Team

Portrait of woman on top and man behind a camera on bottom.

Laura Davis (Producer) &
Tjardus Greidanus (Director/Editor/Cinematographer)

Laura and Tjardus specialize in making impactful documentaries about science and medicine. Their latest project, Virulent: The Vaccine War, examines the history of vaccine hesitancy and the galvanizing effect Covid-19 has had on anti-vaccination activists. It is their follow-up to the CINE Golden Eagle-winning A Shot to Save the World about the creation of the Salk polio vaccine which featured an exclusive interview with Bill Gates and streamed on Paramount+ throughout 2020.

A Shot to Save the World film originally premiered on the Smithsonian Channel and BBC Four and was honored by the CDC Foundation on World Polio Day 2013.

Another feature documentary, Burden of Genius, an exploration of Dr. Thomas Starzl’s pioneering work in organ transplantation, is heading to public television in 2022 following weeks of sold-out screenings at the Carnegie Science Center and hundreds of screenings at top transplant centers including Stanford, Columbia, Harvard-Mass General, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, UPMC, Duke and the University of Chicago as well as at transplant conferences around the world.

Before turning to documentaries, Laura and Tjardus made hundreds of marketing featurettes for Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. Over two decades, they worked for some of the world’s most respected directors producing over 30 projects for Martin Scorsese, James L. Brooks, Mike Nichols, Cameron Crowe and Michael Mann. They also made the narrative features Hellbent (2018) and A New York Heartbeat (2013), which gave Emmy Award-winner Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) her first starring role.

Laura also produced the documentaries Everest: On Location in the Death Zone (Miramax) and The Chef & The Architect (Food Network), and the telefilms, Someone Else’s Child (ABC) and Still Holding On: The Legend of Cadillac Jack (CBS). She got her start as an interviewer on NBC Radio and later for Showtime/The Movie Channel following her graduation from Cornell University.

Dutch-born Tjardus is currently prepping The Shot, a narrative feature about Dr. Jonas Salk and his creation of the polio vaccine, based on A Shot to Save the World. He successfully straddles documentary and narrative filmmaking bringing to both a love for authenticating detail and character-driven stories.

Portrait of man

Mark Jonathan Harris (Executive Producter)

Mark Jonathan Harris is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and Distinguished Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, where he holds the Mona and Bernard Kantor Chair of Production.

Among the many documentaries he has written, produced and/or directed are The Redwoods, which won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary (1968); The Long Way Home, Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary (1997); and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, which won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2000 and was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry. Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (2003), a documentary that he wrote on slavery in America, was nominated for an Emmy for a Nonfiction Special and Harris was nominated for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. Foster, which he wrote and directed, aired on HBO in 2019 and was nominated for Best Documentary Screenplay by the Writers Guild of America. In 2021, Asian Americans, a 5-part PBS series for which he was Consulting Producer, received a Peabody Award.

Portrait of man

Gary Lionelli (Music Composer)

Three-time Emmy-winning composer Gary Lionelli received a 2017 Primetime Emmy nomination for his score for the 2017 Academy Award-winning film O.J.: Made in America, directed by Ezra Edelman, depicting the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson from football legend to murder suspect.

He also scored Rory Kennedy’s 2015 Academy Award-nominated film Last Days in Vietnam and HBO’s dramatic series Luck, helmed by Michael Mann and David Milch and starring Dustin Hoffman, and the forthcoming romantic comedy Poor Greg Drowning, for director Jeffrey Scott Collins. Most recently he scored Downfall: The Case Against Boeing, for Brian Grazer and Ron Howard at Imagine Entertainment, directed by Rory Kennedy. The film premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Gary’s other work has included the HBO films Foster, by Academy Award-winning filmmakers Deborah Oppenheimer and Virulent Executive Producer Mark Jonathan Harris, and A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks, directed by John Maggio. Recent credits also include The Clinton Affair by filmmakers Blair Foster and Alex Gibney, and Nuclear Family, for director Ry Russo-Young.

As an addition to working with orchestra, Gary performs on many of the instruments heard in his scores. These include many strange and unusual instruments from all over the globe such as a glass euphone, dulcitone, guitar-viol, and many more.

Gary currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Screenings

Request a Screening

Book your Virulent: The Vaccine War screening for:

  • National and regional conferences
  • Grand Rounds
  • National Vaccination Day (March)
  • National Public Health Week (April)
  • Fundraisers to support vaccination services
  • Medical school courses and presentations concerning bioethics and patient communication
  • Law school courses on vaccination law
  • College and high school courses in ethics and countering the spread of internet misinformation

Press

Virulent does such an effective job combatting vaccine skepticism on so many different fronts.”
Virulent explores the history of vaccines and the perspectives of those who oppose them in light of the recent pandemic [including] that they cause autism (spoiler: they do not.)”
“The antivaccine movement is more powerful than ever. To paraphrase Virulent, they have been practicing for just such a cataclysmic event [as COVID.] That’s why we’re happy to be holding a virtual screening of Virulent: The Vaccine War. It is very good indeed.”

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