Leaving Neverland, the four-hour documentary chronicling the sexual abuse claims of Wade Robson and James Safechuck at the hands of Michael Jackson has rippled through the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, leaving a bitter chill as cold as the ice caps on Utah’s mountains.
Several patrons reportedly walked out in the middle of the screening, and there were counselors on hand to provide support for what was clearly a triggering film ... in myriad ways.
According to Deadline, Park City Police increased staffing within their units for the night as protests were expected and there were reported threats against the film’s director, Dan Reed.
Arguably, the most visceral response to the screening was from IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, who wrote a review of the film’s world premiere on Jan. 24.
(Trigger Warning: Details of child sexual abuse)
“Steel yourself for specifics, as dancing around them would defeat the purpose of this documentary,” wrote Ehrlich, as he went into acutely graphic details of accusations contained within the doc, including a mock wedding ceremony and genital-to-oral penetration.
Following the press received from screenings, the Jackson family released the following official statement:
Michael Jackson is our brother and son. We are furious that the media, who without a shred of proof or single piece of physical evidence, chose to believe the word of two admitted liars over the word of hundreds of families and friends around the world who spent time with Michael, many at Neverland, and experienced his legendary kindness and global generosity. We are proud of what Michael Jackson stands for.
People have always loved to go after Michael. He was an easy target because he was unique. But Michael was subjected to a thorough investigation which included a surprise raid of Neverland and other properties as well as a jury trial where Michael was found to be COMPLETELY INNOCENT. There has never been one piece of proof of anything. Yet the media is eager to believe these lies.
Michael always turned the other cheek, and we have always turned the other cheek when people have gone after members of our family - that is the Jackson way. But we can’t just stand by while this public lynching goes on, and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him. Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made.
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. That is not journalism, and it’s not fair, yet the media are perpetuating these stories.
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.
Haven’t seen the film yet, I’ll just say this: I am not ready to watch nor write about it, but I know I will. And a sober reckoning shall be had.
Leaving Neverland will broadcast on HBO and the UK’s Channel 4 as a two-night special this spring.