A damning new documentary accusing Michael Jackson of child sexual abuse will premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Leaving Neverland, named after Jackson’s infamous California ranch, tells the story of two men who claim they were abused by the hit pop singer when they were young.
“At the height of his stardom, Michael Jackson began long-running relationships with two boys, aged 7 and 10, and their families,” reads the film’s synopsis. “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.”
Jackson was charged with seven counts of child molestation in 2003, but was acquitted following a lengthy jury trial. He did, however, reportedly pay upwards of $20 million in civil settlements to his accusers.
The identities of Leaving Neverland’s accusers haven’t been revealed, but as Rolling Stone points out, a photo that appears on the website for Amos Pictures (the company associated with the film’s production) features Jackson with Wade Robson. Robson previously filed a lawsuit against Jackson’s estate in 2013, claiming the Thriller artist abused him in the late ’80s. The suit was dismissed in 2017; according to Page Six, the judge found that the estate wasn’t liable for Robson’s exposure to Jackson, who died in 2009, but didn’t rule on the abuse allegations themselves.
“This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson,” a representative for Jackson’s estate said in a statement. “Wade Robson and James Safechuck [who has also sued the estate over abuse claims] 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,” the statement continued. “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 filmmaker behind Leaving Neverland is Dan Reed, known for helming previous TV documentaries Three Days of Terror: The Charlie Attacks, The Paedophile Hunter, and The Ground Zero Mosque.
The 2019 Sundance Film Festival begins January 24th and runs through February 3rd.
Update: The film will air on HBO in the US and Channel 4 in the UK following its Sundance premiere.
News of Leaving Neverland’s premiere comes less than a week after the debut of Surviving R. Kelly, Lifetime’s damning docu-series spotlighting the countless sexual misconduct allegations lodged against R. Kelly. In the days since its airing, authorities have launched a criminal investigation looking into Kelly’s troubling past.