The Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, is currently a hot topic of debate in the wake of its debut this past weekend at the Sundance Film Festival. Sparking intense reactions online, the film has found both its supporters and its detractors — the latter especially coming from the family of the late pop singer. The Jackson family issued a sternly-worded statement yesterday expressing anger with how Michael is depicted in the film, which the film’s director called ‘not consistent with having watched the movie’ in a response in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Dan Reed, the director of Leaving Neverland, went on to characterize Jackson as an “asset” to the family which they have financial incentive to protect. However, he contends that the movie isn’t even so much about Michael Jackson as it is the story of the two accusers he interviewed for the film, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, and that the film is “a story about these two families and Jackson is an element of that story.”
“They have a very precious asset to protect,” he said. “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…. 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.”
He also denies that Robson and Safechuck were paid for their participation and says he hopes “it’ll educate people as to how child sexual abuse happens.”