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Founded by Robert Redford, the last five days have seen Utah light up for the Sundance Film Festival. Premiering and celebrating independent film and theatre, the annual event took a slightly darker tone as director Dan Reed presented Leaving Neverland late last week – a documentary investigating child abuse claims against the late Michael Jackson.

Although being plagued by threats and protests from Jackson fans, the docco proved to be highly successful amongst the industry, with Variety describing it as “devastatingly powerful and convincing testimony that Michael Jackson was guilty of child sexual abuse.”

Now however, the family and estate of the pop sensation have called out the film, revealed in a lengthy statement how they are “furious” with the media, choosing to believe two “admitted liars”. Read it below:

“Michael Jackson is our brother and son. We are furious that the media, who without a shred of proof or single piece of physical evidence, chose to believe the word of two admitted liars over the word of hundreds of families and friends around the world who spent time with Michael, many at Neverland, and experienced his legendary kindness and global generosity. We are proud of what Michael Jackson stands for.

People have always loved to go after Michael. He was an easy target because he was unique. But Michael was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a surprise raid of Neverland and other properties as well as a jury trial where Michael was found to be COMPLETELY INNOCENT. There has never been one piece of proof of anything. Yet the media is eager to believe these lies.

Michael always turned the other cheek, and we have always turned the other cheek when people have gone after members of our family—that is the Jackson way. But we can’t just stand by while this public lynching goes on, and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him. Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made.

The creators of this film were not interested in the truth. They never interviewed a single solitary soul who knew Michael except the two perjurers and their families. That is not journalism, and it’s not fair, ­yet the media are perpetuating these stories.

But the truth is on our side. Go do your research about these opportunists. The facts don’t lie, people do. Michael Jackson was and always will be 100% innocent of these false allegations.”

Credit: Instagram @craigrobertyoung_

Shortly after, Dan Reed fought back against the family and its statement.

“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,” says Reed. “So 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.”

Set to be broadcast in late 2019, Leaving Neverland follows two adult accusers – Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck – who allege they were sexually abused by the pop star Michael Jackson as children.

Stay tuned for more developments.