The 1st Look At The Michael Jackson Documentary Suggests His Image Will Not Survive
In January, the four-hour documentary Leaving Neverland screened at the Sundance Film Festival. Next month, the general public can view the controversial film that examines accusations of sexual abuse against Michael Jackson. The estate of Jackson, who died a decade ago, has denounced the film. Ahead of its March 3 and March 4 two-part broadcast on HBO, the first trailer is released.
In the 90-second trailer, two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, revisit their friendship with Michael Jackson during their childhood in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Photographs from Jackson’s Neverland Ranch are included in the film and the trailer. The sprawling Los Olivos, California estate included an amusement park, movie theater, two railroads, and a petting zoo. Jackson purchased the ranch in 1988, renaming it.
“He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives,” Wade alleges in the trailer. He later says, “I want to be able to speak the truth as loud as I had to speak the lie for so long.”
Robson is a dancer and singer. He appeared in several Jackson music videos, including “Jam” and “Black Or White” during his childhood. His Rap group Quo would eventually sign with Jackson’s MJJ imprint and release 1994 eponymous LP.
Ahead of the trailer, Jackson’s estate told E! News in a letter, “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 [Jackson] 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.”
During his life, Jackson was twice accused of sexually molesting children. In 1993, then-13-year-old Jordan Chandler publicly alleged that Jackson had acted inappropriately. A decade later, it was revealed that Jackson settled out of court with Chandler’s lawyers for $25 million. The settlement ceased an ongoing criminal case. Years later, Jackson only admitted to negligence.
In late 2003, Michael Jackson was arrested and charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent in a relationship with another 13-year-old boy. This minor appeared in the Martin Bashir interview documentary, Living With Michael Jackson. The boy and his mother accused the Pop superstar of acting inappropriately, prompting an arrest by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department. A subsequent 2005 trial ended in an acquittal.
In 2006, the Neverland facilities closed. In 2009, Jackson died. His personal doctor, Conrad Murray, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2011.
Leaving Neverland director/producer Dan Reed previously made 2014 documentary, The Paedophile Hunter and 2016’s Three Days of Terror: The Charlie Hebdo Attacks. This film follows a record-breaking six-part documentary Surviving R. Kelly on Lifetime in January. Since the broadcast, Kelly was dropped by his longtime record label, with reports of an ongoing criminal investigation of sexual misconduct.