Claims of “tabloid character assassination endured in life, and now in death,” are being stated by the Michael Jackson estate after a controversial screening of a documentary titled "Leaving Neverland" at the recent Sundance Film Festival. The statement came a short twelve hours after the documentary was screened on Friday, January 25th, at the Egyptian Theater, in Park City, Utah home to the yearly event.
Directed by Dan Reed, the film presents the events described by two of Jackson’s accusors, detailing the intensely graphic acts that Wade Robson and James Safechuck claim the singer committed against them individually, including the acts that Jackson personally coached the boys to perform on him as well.
Robson states that during a dance competition he was in at age five, he met the pop icon, and by the tender age of seven, the sexual abuse began. Safechuck met Jackson when he was cast for Jackson’s Pepsi commercial, and claims the abuse began within a few months of what became a close friendship.
Jackson, who passed in June of 2009, continually denied any claims brought up about wrongdoing, staunchly stating he would never do anything to hurt a child. As fate would have it, in May 2013 Robson filed a lawsuit claiming long term sexual abuse by Jackson. However, in 2003, ten years prior, Robson appeared in defense of Jackson, stating he had never been abused, taking the same stand along with actors Macauley Culkin and Corey Feldman, who also defended Jackson and denied any such actions involving them.
In an official statement issued by the estate of Michael Jackson: “Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary, but is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endure in life and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened twenty years ago and treats them as fact.”
Saying that the documentary received strong reactions, spanning the spectrum, would be an understatement. However, it is being said that when the screening ended, the film received a roaring standing ovation. According to the Hollywood Reporter, there was also a small group of protestor’s lined up outside the theater, holding signs blazing with the words “seek truth” and “innocent.”
There were reports that health-care professionals were on hand after the screening, in case any audience members were profoundly affected by the intensely graphic descriptions presented about the claimed incidents with Jackson.
The documentary is set to air on HBO spring of 2019.
So, what’s the verdict—you decide.
Is this documentary just a means to further smear both Jackson’s name and legacy?