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'Leaving Neverland': Director, Michael Jackson estate spar over film

By Wade Sheridan
'Leaving Neverland': Director, Michael Jackson estate spar over film
A new documentary repeats claims from two men that Michael Jackson sexually abused them as children. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Director Dan Reed and Michael Jackson's estate are sparring over his new documentary, Leaving Neverland.

The film, which premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival, examines allegations from Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 40, that Jackson sexually abused them as children.

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Reed said the film aims to bolster the #MeToo movement, to empower people to speak out against sexual abuse.

Jackson's estate said Leaving Neverland highlights old, "uncorrobated allegations."

"These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars, which were ultimately dismissed by a judge," the estate said in a statement. "The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations."

Reed responded to the criticism in in an interview Sunday with USA Today.

"It's pretty much what you'd expect them to say. The statement contains nothing that is of concern and no substantial criticism of the film. They obviously haven't seen it, and I'm not engaging with the substance of what they're saying," Reed said.

Reed told the Los Angeles Times he hopes his film will help others who have been abused to speak up.

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"I don't think the answer is to start a war about Jackson's music," Reed said. "I think this film is going to get people going #MeToo, and a lot of people will come out and will feel they're able to talk because Wade and James broke the biggest taboo of all -- the biggest silence of all. People who have had the same experience but not with a very famous person will feel empowered to speak."

The four-hour Leaving Neverland is set to debut on HBO later this year.

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