The new two-part documentary on Michael Jackson, Leaving Neverland has been mired in controversy since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25. The documentary follows Wade Robson and James Safechuck (now in their thirties) who allege that Jackson preyed on them as young boys.
Since Friday, the documentary has been met with statements from the Jackson estate and Jackson’s family, with the estate calling Leaving Neverland a “tabloid character assassination” on Jackson. The family dubbed Robson and Safechuck as “perjurers” and the film as a “public lynching.”
Now, Leaving Neverland director and producer Dan Reed has responded to those criticisms. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Reed said, “A four-hour piece, is that a tabloid?” He continued, “I didn’t characterize Jackson at all in the film—I think if you watch it you'll have noticed that it’s a story about these two families and Jackson is an element of that story.” Reed asserted that the film isn’t about Jackson, but rather “an account of sexual abuse, how sexual abuse happens and then how the consequences play out later in life.”
“They have a very precious asset to protect,” Reed added. “Every time a song plays, a cash register goes ‘ka-ching.’ It doesn’t surprise me that they've come out fighting in defense of their asset.” Reed also mentioned that he doesn’t think the family has seen the film. “Their statements are not consistent with having watched the movie,” Reed told THR.
Leaving Neverland is set to premiere on HBO this spring.