“Every time a [Michael Jackson] song plays, a cash register goes ‘ka-ching’.”
Documentary director Dan Reed is now clapping back against the Jackson family and estate, and defending his controversial film.
Reed, not known for shyness around controversial topics, has been sharply criticized by the Jacksons (and their lawyers) of spreading false allegations about the late pop superstar. But Reed says this isn’t a ‘tabloid’ piece or a false accusation by an ‘opportunist,’ as the family has alleged.
“I don’t comment on Jackson. It’s not a film about Michael,” Reed told the Hollywood Reporter. “The film itself is an account of sexual abuse, how sexual abuse happens and then how the consequences play out later in life.”
But instead of merely defending his documentary, Reed is also accusing the Jackson clan of being motivated by money.
“They have a very precious asset to protect,” Reed continued. “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.”
The four-hour documentary zooms in on two Jackson accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
The individuals, now in their late-30s, had close relationships with Jackson while young boys. Both have accused the superstar of sexual molestation.
Robson and Safechuck offer detailed looks at their histories with Jackson. And apparently, the interviews are pretty convincing. Here’s how Variety characterized the boys’ testimonies.
In Leaving Neverland, the testimony of Robson and Safechuck is overwhelmingly powerful and convincing. And one reason it’s more powerful than anything we’ve previously encountered on the subject — though plenty has been reported about it, beginning with an in-depth Vanity Fair article in 1993 — is that the two don’t just describe the sexual activities that Jackson subjected them to (oral sex, mutual masturbation, the viewing of porn). They describe, in abundantly articulate and deeply emotional detail, how the abuse took place within the context of what appeared (to them) to be a relationship of hypnotic warmth and trust.
The film is now being showcased at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, currently underway.
Multiple screenings have already occurred at the splashy event, despite heavy pressure by the Jackson estate to nix the film.
That preliminary showcase is getting plenty of media attention. But HBO is also planning to showcase the documentary starting in March, with other platforms potentially joining on. That will add fuel to this simmering fire, with Michael Jackson’s already-questionable legacy taking another serious hit.
Indeed, the #MeToo movement is now chasing down all sorts of sexual predation in the past, from perpetrators alive and dead. Variety says this is how you might feel after watching the film:
The filmmaker, Dan Reed, forces us to confront the reality that the greatest pop genius since the Beatles was, beneath his talent, a monster. Leaving Neverland is no thriller, but it’s undeniably a kind of true-life horror movie. You walk out of it shaken, but on some level liberated by its dark exposé.