The 2019 Sundance Film Festival has added a surprise documentary that will focus on two men who say they were sexually abused by Michael Jackson, as well as a documentary about Steve Bannon’s time out of the White House.
The synopsis for Dan Reed’s “Leaving Neverland” says: “At the height of his stardom Michael Jackson began long-running relationships with two boys, aged 7 and 10, and their families. 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.”
A rep from Jackson’s estate told TheWrap: “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.” The rep added that the two accusers had “both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them” and said that they “filed lawsuits against Michael’s Estate, asking for millions of dollars. Both lawsuits were dismissed.”
An individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap that “Leaving Neverland” has a total running time of 233 minutes and will be told in two parts.
Jackson was acquitted of sexually molesting two brothers at his criminal trial in 2005. They are not the men in the documentary. He also paid a civil settlement in 1994 over accusations that he molested another boy, who is now in his 30s and is also not one of the men in the doc.
The Jackson rep’s statement added: “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.”
The Jackson film is sure to reignite speculation about the pop star, who died in 2009. His criminal trial was set in motion by another documentary, the 2003 British television special “Living With Michael Jackson,” which raised questions about his relationships with boys.
The #MeToo movement has led to a re-evaluation of many celebrities’ behavior. Lifetime’s new “Surviving R Kelly,” which details accusations that the singer has a history of abusing women, has become a social media phenomenon. Kelly has denied any wrongdoing.
Also added to the Sundance lineup is “The Brink,” by director Alison Klayman. The film follows Steve Bannon since he left his post at the White House.
The 2018 festival will showcase 241 projects. Sundance said that of these, 47 percent were directed by one or more women, 41 percent were directed by one of more filmmaker of color and 17 percent were directed by one or more people who identify as LGBTQIA.
The 2018 Sundance Film Festival will take place from January 24 to February 3 in Park City, Utah.
See below for the latest additions.
DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES CATEGORY
The Brink / U.S.A. (Director: Alison Klayman, Producer: Marie Therese Guirgis) — Now unconstrained by an official White House post, Steve Bannon is free to peddle influence as a perceived kingmaker with a direct line to the President. After anointing himself leader of the “populist movement,” he travels around the U.S. and the world spreading his hard-line anti-immigration message. World Premiere
SPECIAL EVENTS CATEGORY
Leaving Neverland / U.S.A, United Kingdom (Producer and Director: Dan Reed) — At the height of his stardom Michael Jackson began long-running relationships with two boys, aged 7 and 10, and their families. Now in their 30s, they tell the story of how they were sexually abused by Jackson, and how they came to terms with it year later. World Premiere