|Directed by||Dan Reed|
|Produced by||Dan Reed|
|Edited by||Jules Cornell|
Leaving Neverland is a 2019 documentary film directed and produced by British filmmaker Dan Reed. It focuses on two men, Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, who allege they were sexually abused by the pop star Michael Jackson as children. They sued the Jackson estate in 2013, but the case was dismissed.
The film is a co-production between the UK broadcaster Channel 4 and the US broadcaster Home Box Office (HBO). It premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2019, and will be broadcast in the USA in two parts on March 3 and 4 then in the UK on March 6 and 7.
Leaving Neverland describes how Jackson allegedly began relationships with two young fans, then aged 7 and 10, and their families. It features interviews with Safechuck and Robson and their mothers, wives, and siblings to paint a portrait of sustained abuse and explore the complicated feelings that led the two men to confront their experiences after both having young sons of their own.
In 1993, Jackson was accused of sexually molesting 13-year-old Jordan Chandler. He denied the claims, and settled the civil case out of court for an undisclosed amount. No criminal charges were filed. In 2005, a jury found Jackson not guilty of molesting Gavin Arvizo and related charges. American laws of the time allowed for accusations dating back to 1993 to be reviewed alongside the new allegations, thus Jackson was acquitted of all charges dating back to the first accusations.
In 2011, Wade Robson approached the co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate for a job as a director on Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour. Robson stated he wanted the job "badly", but the Estate ultimately chose someone else for the job. In 2012, Robson had a nervous breakdown, he said his career, finances, and marriage began to "crumble". That same year, Robson's began shopping a book deal that would claim he was sexually abused by Michael Jackson. No publisher picked it up. In 2013, Robson filed a $1.5 billion dollar civil lawsuit/creditor's claim, along with James Safechuck, under the same lawyer. Safechuck would claim he only realized he may have been abused when Robson filed his lawsuit. Each alleging that Jackson had abused them in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The lawsuits were dismissed in 2017.
After it was announced the film would premiere at Sundance, the Jackson estate issued a press release stating: "This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson ... 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." The statement was published in its entirety in Variety. Jackson’s nephew, Taj, has begun a campaign to create his own documentary series to retract Robson and Safechuck’s accusations made in Leaving Neverland.
The Sundance Film Festival issued a statement to its corporate sponsors that it would not withdraw the film. Director Dan Reed, said: "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."
Robson and Safechuck attended the Sundance premiere, where the audience gave them a standing ovation. Both said they have received death threats from Jackson fans. Reed has also been threatened.
The Jackson family issued a statement condemning the film: "The creators of this film were not interested in the truth. They never interviewed a single solitary soul who knew Michael except the two perjurers and their families. But the truth is on our side. Go do your research about these opportunists. The facts don't lie, people do. Michael Jackson was and always will be 100% innocent of these false allegations".
In The Hollywood Reporter, Daniel Fienberg wrote that Leaving Neverland "is nearly as much about the 20+ years during which Robson and Safechuck held onto secrets or even lied and covered up the truth — and the damage that can do — as it is about the alleged crimes themselves." He concluded that "it's doubtful you'll feel exactly the same after watching." The Telegraph awarded it five out of five, describing it as "a horrifying picture of child abuse".
Rolling Stone critic David Fear wrote: "By offering these men a forum, this doc has clearly chosen a side. Yet the thoroughness with which it details this history of allegations, and the way it personalizes them to a startling degree, is hard to shake off." IndieWire critic David Ehrlich wrote that the film was "dry" and "hardly great cinema", but that it was "a crucial document for a culture that still can't see itself clearly in Michael Jackson's shadow."
Critic Carla Renata of The Curvy Film Critic wrote: "Witnessing yet another character assassination of someone who is no longer here to fight for himself. It's sad and disappointing either way you look at it. I remain conflicted and confused by it all." Jordan Ruimy of World of Reel wrote: "The problem with Leaving Neverland is, as mentioned, that two proven liars are the sources here, which makes the doc feel like a hit piece rather than any kind of artistic statement."
- "Leaving Neverland". Sundance Film Festival. Sundance Institute. Retrieved January 25, 2019.
- Channel 4 rejects Michael Jackson estate complaint over documentary http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-47197243
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- Ruimy, Jordan (January 15, 2019). ""Leaving Neverland" Feels More Like an Opportunistic Hit-Piece Rather Than a Documentary [Review]". Retrieved February 16, 2019.