Michael Jackson's family criticise new 'abuse' documentary

Ben Arnold
Michael Jackson (Credit: PA)

Michael Jackson’s family have slammed the Sundance Film Festival for premiering a new documentary which alleges that Michael Jackson sexually abused two young boys.

The two-part, 233-minute long Leaving Neverland, directed by BAFTA winner Dan Reed, will be shown at the annual festival later this month.

Per the film’s official synopsis: “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.”

The film focuses on James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who both allege they were molested by Jackson, Robson when he was seven-years-old.

The official Sundance program offers more insight into the film’s claims, which are made through ‘gut-wrenching’ interviews.

“As one of the world’s most celebrated icons, Michael Jackson represents many things to many people—a pop star, a humanitarian, a beloved idol. 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. 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. Through gut-wrenching interviews with the now-adult men and their families, ‘Leaving Neverland’ crafts 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.”

Leaving Neverland (Credit: Amos Pictures/Sundance Film Festival)

Lawsuits filed by Robson and Safechuck against Jackson were dismissed by a judge in Los Angeles in 2017.

Reed’s past films have included the documentaries The Paedophile Hunters, which aired on Channel 4 in 2014, Terror in Mumbai, about the 2008 terrorist attacks, and Frontline Fighting: Battling Isis for Netflix.

Reps for the Jackson estate told Rolling Stone: “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.”

The festival takes place in Park City, Utah, from 24 January.

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