Michael Jackson's legion of supporters are beginning to "open their eyes" after watching Leaving Neverland, says director Dan Reed.
Reed's controversial documentary has sparked an international firestorm of debate after detailing claims made by Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 40, who allege they were abused by Jackson as children aged 7 and 10.
As Kiwi viewers are still reeling after uncomfortably digesting the concluding part of the four-hour HBO film on TVNZ 1 last night, Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking caught up with the director, who says he believes his project has begun to sway even die-hard fans.
"People are beginning to say 'oh my god'. And former fans are beginning to come around and open their eyes," he told Hosking.
Reed said he was pleased Leaving Neverland has begun to erode the perception that Jackson was incapable of the horrendous allegations made against him and slammed the extreme lengths his defenders have gone to in trying to squash the film's credibility.
"We needed to debunk in no uncertain terms the myth that Michael put about, this smokescreen that his love for children was somehow platonic and innocent, that he just gives them a little cuddle in bed," he said.
"We needed to put paid to that once and for all, and I think we have.
"Really, the appropriate question to ask is why shouldn't we believe them? The people who have a financial interest in this are the Jackson Estate, and no doubt members of the Jackson family. They need to protect their cash cow.
"And their go-to tactic is to vilify, and pour slime on these two guys who very sincerely are saying, as children, they were abused by the King of Pop."
Reed scoffs at suggestions that Robson and Safechuck's involvement in the film is a cynical grab for money and fame, after the pair shared horrific details of the abuse they suffered.
"Are Wade and James looking for attention? Well, going on telly and talking about how you were raped, essentially by Michael Jackson, in the most excruciating detail. And having your mother go on television, saying how she delivered her little boy into the hands of a predatory paedophile, that's a hell of a way of getting attention isn't it?
"[Robson] also described in graphic detail, the sexual abuse and that was pretty harrowing to listen to. And I thought there aren't many young men who would describe that sort of stuff willingly, he did with great dignity, but it's embarrassing stuff for a guy to have to talk about."
Reed remains shocked at the methods Jackson allegedly employed in manipulating not only the two boys but also their families, and the film sets about exposing his paedophile grooming techniques.
"To my horror, Wade said that Michael had told him that he loves him, and that he had fallen in love with Michael. And this was a sexual awakening, and that is a horrible thing to say in relation to a 7-year-old child. But that's what was happening, and that's what this ruthless man set about doing.
"He set about seducing these little boys. So they didn't experience what was happening as abuse, as something bad. They thought it was a good thing, they felt special and wonderful.
"So when Wade started telling me how much in love he'd been with Michael, I thought 'woah, this is strange and different'. And suddenly a lot of things started to make sense about his story."
A lingering strand of criticism directed at the film hangs on the fact Jackson is unable to defend himself as the 10-year anniversary of his 2009 death approaches, but Reed insists Leaving Neverland is fairly balanced.
"We did everything we could to have him in the film, to represent his voice in the film. Because he'd been accused of child sexual abuse, very publicly, a couple of times, in 1993 and 2003, there were plenty of statements by him and by his lawyers, to the effect he was innocent.
"The hostility of the Jackson camp, and the denials of Jackson and his associates are very well represented in the film.
"So I think he does have a real voice in there, and we do give the Jackson side a fair shot at denying there was any sexual abuse."