“We knew that Jackson’s estate and his fans would be upset,” reveals director Dan Reed about the reactions to his recent HBO documentary, “Leaving Neverland.” The reactions, especially from Michael Jackson‘s defenders, were louder than he had anticipated, didn’t catch him off-guard. Reed tells us in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above) that what did come as a surprise to him was how exposed he was to the negative reactions. “As the director of a documentary, I try and stay in the background while the subjects speak for the film, because they’re usually what people are interested in. But in this case we didn’t want to over-expose James and Wade so I found myself answering all the questions.” In the case of Jackson’s most passionate defenders, who aren’t interested in what the film has to say, he’s mostly just ignored them though.
“Leaving Neverland” is a two-part documentary that tells the story of both Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both allege that they were sexually abused by pop legend Jackson for several years beginning at the respective ages of seven and ten. Robson and Safechuck not only give graphic details about the abuse that Jackson perpetrated but how he ingratiated himself into the lives of their families and brought all of them into his inner circle. Before his death in 2009, Jackson had been publicly accused of child molestation twice. The first case was settled out of court in 1993 and the second case went to trial in 2005 that ended with Jackson being found not guilty of the charges.
The film was originally going to examine the subject in much broader way but soon after filming started, Reed took it in another direction. “I realized that people don’t really get what child sexual abuse looks like and they don’t understand the way the seduction seems to happen. So, to me, this became an opportunity to allow people to take a really deep dive into the psychology of child sexual abuse and the way it happens.” The interviews with Wade and James’s families also helped show how they all were lured in by the glamour and security that being in Jackson’s orbit provided.
While the whole documentary contains shocking details of what occurred, Reed found several areas that stood out as particularly appalling. “When I sat down to interview Wade, I remember doing this double or triple-take when I realized that what he was telling me was that as a seven-year-old, he had been seduced and fallen in love with Jackson. Jackson wasn’t violent or brutal or forcing himself on him. That was more shocking than the sexual descriptions.” Reed also said that James’s descriptions of being cast aside as he got older in favor of other younger boys was also very distressing.
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