"It is a four-hour documentary by an experienced documentarian."
The director of Leaving Neverland has responded after the documentary received widespread backlash from the estate of Michael Jackson.
The documentary debuted at Sundance Film Festival last week and focuses on Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both allege that they were molested by the pop icon as children.
In the wake of the film’s debut last Friday, Jackson’s estate described it as a “public lynching” and argued that the late singer is unable to defend himself.
However, director Dan Reed has now responded directly to their claims that it is a “tabloid character assassination” and pointed towards the film’s four hour run-time.
“It is a four-hour documentary by an experienced documentarian with a long track record in investigation and telling complex stories and this is a complex story,” Reed told the Hollywood Reporter.
“I’d say it’s beyond doubt a documentary. Anyone with any knowledge of that form would recognize a documentary. A four-hour piece, is that a tabloid? 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.
“But I don’t seek to characterize him at all. I don’t comment on Jackson. It’s not a film about Michael. … The film itself is an account of sexual abuse, how sexual abuse happens and then how the consequences play out later in life.“
Responding directly to Jackson’s family, Reed described the singer as a “very precious asset.”
“They have a very precious asset to protect,” Reed says.
“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.”
Defending both Robson & Safechuck, he added: “”Wade and James were not paid in any way, directly, indirectly. The family were not enumerated. There was nothing. No compensation in any form whatsoever. I think that’s an important thing to establish.
“The #MeToo era began during the making of the film, and there’s been a sea change in how we regard the victims of sexual assault, and I’m hoping that this film will deepen that and widen it to boys and men, victims of child sexual abuse. Also I’m hoping it’ll educate people as to how child sexual abuse happens.”
Meanwhile, Jackson’s nephew Taj recently launched a crowdfunder to raise funds for his own documentary that will dispute the allegations against the star.