A new four-hour documentary about two men recounting experiences in which they say they were sexually abused by Michael Jackson as boys, will premiere on HBO this spring.
The documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” is told in two parts and was a surprise addition to the 2019 Sundance lineup.
The synopsis for the film, directed by Dan Reed, is: “When allegations of abuse by Jackson involving young boys surfaced in 1993, many found it hard to believe that he could be guilty of such unspeakable acts. ‘Leaving Neverland’ explores the experiences of two young boys, James Safechuck, at age 10, and Wade Robson, at age 7, who were both befriended by Jackson. They and their families were entranced by the singer’s fairy-tale existence as his career reached its peak.”
“If there’s anything we’ve learned during this time in our history, it’s that sexual abuse is complicated, and survivors’ voices need to be listened to,” Reed said in a statement. “It took great courage for these two men to tell their stories and I have no question about their validity. I believe anyone who watches this film will see and feel the emotional toll on the men and their families and will appreciate the strength it takes to confront long-held secrets.”
“Leaving Neverland” uses tough interviews with Safechuck and Robson, now in their 30s, as well as their mothers, wives and siblings, in order craft what the filmmakers say is a portrait of sustained abuse. It also sets out to explore the complicated feelings that led both men to confront their experiences after each had a young son of his own.
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.”
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.”
“Leaving Neverland” was a co-production of Channel 4 and HBO and made by AMOS Pictures. It will premiere on HBO as well as Channel 4 this spring.