Michael Jackson’s estate has decried a documentary set to premiere this month at the Sundance Film Festival that features two men who say they were sexually abused by the singer.
The 233-minute film, called “Leaving Neverland,” is “yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson,” the estate said Wednesday.
Hours later, Britain’s Channel 4 and HBO announced plans to air the two-part documentary this spring, following its Sundance debut Jan. 25. In a press release, filmmakers confirmed the film follows two men now in their 30s, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say they were befriended by Jackson when they were 7 and 10, respectively. Through what the production describes as “gut-wrenching” interviews with the men and their families, the film will explore how the men came to terms with the alleged “sustained abuse” after raising their own sons.
“It took great courage for these two men to tell their stories, and I have no question about their validity,” director Dan Reed said in a statement. “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.”
Robson, a choreographer who had his own MTV dance show and worked with popular teen acts like Britney Spears and ’N Sync, said in a child molestation case in 2013 that Jackson abused him from age 7 until 14. That suit was dismissed in 2015, and a year later he filed “child sexual abuse operation” claims against Jackson’s MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. The second case was dismissed in 2017.
Safechuck, who said he met Jackson while working on a 1987 Pepsi commercial, filed a civil suit against the musician’s estate in 2014, which was dismissed a year later. He resumed his legal efforts in 2016, but a judge threw out the case in 2017, citing the 10-year statute of limitations.
Jackson’s estate is arguing that both men “testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them.
“This so called ‘documentary’ is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations,” the estate continued. “It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project.”
Follow me on Twitter @AmyKinLA