A documentary about the lives of two boys who accused Michael Jackson of sexual abuse has been added to this year’s Sundance Film Festival lineup.
Leaving Neverland, from producer-director Dan Reed, says it will tell the stories of two boys, aged 7 and 10, who began long-running relationships with superstar Michael Jackson, at the height of his stardom. Now in their 30s, they tell the story of how they were sexually abused by Jackson, and how they came to terms with it years later.
Michael Jackson’s estate has released a statement in response to the news, blasting the doc as “yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
The two-part, 236-minute documentary, is slated to premiere on Jan. 25 in the event’s Special Events Category. “When allegations of sexual abuse by Jackson involving young boys surfaced in 1993, many found it hard to believe that the King of Pop could be guilty of such unspeakable acts,” reads the description of the film on the Sundance Institute site. “In separate but parallel stories that echo one another, two boys were each befriended by Jackson, who invited them into his singular and wondrous world. Seduced by the singer’s fairy-tale existence and enthralled by their relationship with him, both boys’ families were blind to the manipulation and abuse that he would ultimately subject them to.”
Featuring “gut-wrenching” interviews with the now-adult men and their families, the film directed by Reed (The Paedophile Hunter, From Russia With Cash) purportedly paints a “portrait of sustained exploitation and deception, documenting the power of celebrity that allowed a revered figure to infiltrate the lives of starstruck children and their parents.” The site for the director’s Reed’s Amos Pictures adds, “the story of two families whose boys were sexually abused by Michael Jackson in the 1980s and 90s.”
Though the film’s description does not name the two men allegedly abused by Jackson, the estate’s statement notes that “Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them. Safechuck and Robson, the latter a self-proclaimed ‘master of deception’, filed lawsuits against Michael’s Estate, asking for millions of dollars. Both lawsuits were dismissed.”
A lawsuit filed by well-known choreographer Robson was dismissed by judge Mitchell L. Beckloff in December 2017 on grounds that the two Jackson-owned corporations — the remaining defendants in the case — were not liable for Robson’s exposure to Jackson; Beckloff did not rule on the credibility of Robson’s allegations that Jackson molested him when he was a child. Safechuck was a companion of Jackson’s who also sued the estate in 2014 over sexual abuse claims.
Sundance runs from Jan. 24 to Feb. 4 in Park City.
Read the full statement from the Michael Jackson Estate, below.
This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.
Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them.
Safechuck and Robson, the latter a self-proclaimed ‘master of deception,’ filed lawsuits against Michael’s Estate, asking for millions of dollars. Both lawsuits were dismissed.
This so called “documentary” is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations. It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter. It has been updated with a statement from Jackson’s estate.