Acclaimed HBO documentary Leaving Neverland took home the gold for best documentary or nonfiction special at the Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday, and director and producer Dan Reed was quick to give credit to the brave young men who came forward and spoke out so candidly about the sexual abuses they had suffered.
“This has been quite a journey for this doc,” Reed said, as he accepted the award on stage. “It began with an obscure reference in a web page to two young men I’d never heard of before.”
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Leaving Neverland explores the testimony of two young men: Australian dancer and choreographer Wade Robson and Californian James Safechuck. Both were drawn into Michael Jackson’s inner circle and said they were abused by him at the ages of seven and 10 respectively.
“None of this would have been possible without the incredible courage and determination of Wade and James and their families, and I wanted to salute that,” Reed said. “This is one of the first times we’ve been able to shine light on child sexual abuse….the pattern of how it unfolds is not an easy story to tell….it often remains undisclosed for so many decades, so I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
He also thanked Channel 4 and HBO for their “unwavering support for this very difficult production”.
Backstage, Reed said he had come to believe Robson and Safechuck early on, especially given the depth and tone of their recollections. “I realized when listening to Wade’s story that as an eight-year-old he entered into a relationship that is like a twisted seven-year-old version of a romantic relationship….this was something I never expected to hear. Like most people I thought a child sexual predator was when someone in a raincoat grabbed someone from outside a school…if he was trying to bamboozle me he wouldn’t have had to say, ‘I fell in love with Michael Jackson.'”
The testimonies were backed up were a lot of checking, Reed said. “Of course we did a huge amount of background research into whether it was possible for them to experience the things they said they did.”
Leaving Neverland is nominated for a total of five Emmys.