“Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death,” said the often-litigious estate in a statement released late Friday night. “Conveniently left out of Leaving Neverland was the fact that when Robson was denied a role in a Michael Jackson themed Cirque du Soleil production, his assault allegations suddenly emerged,” the estate adds of Wade Robson and his claims of the abuse by the Thriller singer. (read the full statement below)
With a heavy police presence and few protesters, the two-part Dan Reed directed film premiered on the morning January 25 at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre. The film focuses on Jackson accusers Robson and James Safechuck, who claim they were sexually abused by Jackson years and years ago when they were ages 7 and 10.
The visibly moved duo and director Reed received a standing ovation when they took to the Egyptian’s main garage after today’s incident free screening. All three are expected to show up in Salt Lake City for the screening there on January 26.
Since it was announced earlier this month that Leaving Neverland would open at Sundance, Jackson fans around the world have taken to social media and elsewhere to condemn the documentary. With the constant whiff of legal action in the air, representatives for the estate of Jackson — who died in 2009, four years after being acquitted of seven counts of child molestation and two counts of giving a drug to a 13-year-old boy — slammed Neverland as “just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations.”
The estate hasn’t yet taken a legal move against the filmmaker, HBO and the UK’s Channel 5. The outlets have set a spring debut for the film.
While you wait for that, read the full statement from the Michael Jackson Estate here:
Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge. The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.
Tellingly, the director admitted at the Sundance Film Festival that he limited his interviews only to these accusers and their families. In doing so, he intentionally avoided interviewing numerous people over the years who spent significant time with Michael Jackson and have unambiguously stated that he treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful to them. By choosing not to include any of these independent voices who might challenge the narrative that he was determined to sell, the director neglected fact checking so he could craft a narrative so blatantly one-sided that viewers never get anything close to a balanced portrait.
For 20 years, Wade Robson denied in court and in numerous interviews, including after Michael passed, that he was a victim and stated he was grateful for everything Michael had done for him. His family benefitted from Michael’s kindness, generosity and career support up until Michael’s death. Conveniently left out of Leaving Neverland was the fact that when Robson was denied a role in a Michael Jackson themed Cirque du Soleil production, his assault allegations suddenly emerged.
We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse. This film, however, does those victims a disservice. Because despite all the disingenuous denials made that this is not about money, it has always been about money – millions of dollars — dating back to 2013 when both Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who share the same law firm, launched their unsuccessful claims against Michael’s Estate. Now that Michael is no longer here to defend himself, Robson, Safechuck and their lawyers continue their efforts to achieve notoriety and a payday by smearing him with the same allegations a jury found him innocent of when he was alive.