A new documentary film from director Dan Reed, whose previous credits include Terror in Mumbai and The Paedophile Hunter, renews allegations against Michael Jackson through its focus on two men who claim the singer abused them as children.
Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2019, Leaving Neverland, a new film from Terror in Mumbai and The Paedophile Hunter documentary filmmaker Dan Reed, turns the spotlight once again on Michael Jackson’s relationship with children.
Festival director John Cooper said, “We’re getting real, really early” as he introduced the four-hour documentary, which reveals new allegations of child molestation against the late pop icon.
So wary were Sundance’s organisers to the possible reaction to the film, police officers were stationed outside the theatre in case of protesters, and healthcare professionals were in the lobby for audience members who felt they needed help, guidance or further information after the revelations.
Described as a film featuring “gut-wrenching interviews” with the men, now adults, that crafts a portrait of “sustained exploitation and deception”, Leaving Neverland was met with shock as its credits rolled with one critic saying it was “one intense film”.
The film’s accusers reveal, amongst other things, that Jackson gave a child jewellery in exchange for sex. Its focus is on Wade Robson (now 36) and James Safechuck (now 40), who allege that the music idol sexually abused them for a period of time beginning when they were 7 and 10 years old, respectively.
Film critic for US Weekly Mara Reinstein was convinced by Leaving Neverland, saying she was “shaking” after the screening, claiming “we were all wrong when we cheered for Michael Jackson.”
The pop icon’s nephew retorted that Leaving Neverland is a “one sided hit job”. Jackson’s estate issued a statement saying Reed’s film was an “outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in” on the singer, who died in 2009 after receiving a lethal dose of anaesthetic propofol.
The singer’s fans were quick to point out the fact that Robson and Safechuck’s had previously supported Michael Jackson under oath during previous legal cases against the singer. After law enforcement raided Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in 2003 while investigating claims he had molested a 13-year-old boy, Robson was one of the chief witnesses in the defence’s case. He said in court the singer never abused him. Jackson was acquitted of all charges in 2005.
General audiences will be able to see the film soon with Leaving Neverland scheduled to be screened on British television in Spring.
Reporter Adam B Vary, who saw the film at Sundance, simply said this is a “thorough, devastating, deeply credible piece of filmmaking.” This is a documentary that has legs. It has landed with a bang and won’t go away quietly.
The documentary will be shown on Channel 4 in Spring 2019.