Leaving Neverland

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival recently announced a last minute addition to the slate of movies premiering in Park City, Utah later this month, and it’s bound to stir up some controversy, albeit with a familiar story.

Leaving Neverland is a new documentary that will focus on sexual abuse allegations made against Michael Jackson by a pair of young boys who were befriended by the international recording superstar. The documentary has extensive interviews with the adult men who have claimed Michael Jackson manipulated and abused them, enough to span a nearly four-hour runtime comprised of two feature length episodes.

Here’s the official synopsis for Leaving Neverland from the Sundance Film Festival:

As one of the world’s most celebrated icons, Michael Jackson represents many things to many people—a pop star, a humanitarian, a beloved idol. When allegations of sexual abuse by Jackson involving young boys surfaced in 1993, many found it hard to believe that the King of Pop could be guilty of such unspeakable acts. In separate but parallel stories that echo one another, two boys were each befriended by Jackson, who invited them into his singular and wondrous world. Seduced by the singer’s fairy-tale existence and enthralled by their relationship with him, both boys’ families were blind to the manipulation and abuse that he would ultimately subject them to.

Through gut-wrenching interviews with the now-adult men and their families, Leaving Neverland crafts a portrait of sustained exploitation and deception, documenting the power of celebrity that allowed a revered figure to infiltrate the lives of starstruck children and their parents.

A representative of Michael Jackson’s estate has already responded to the documentary’s existence by calling it “just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations” and they added, “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.” But audiences will get to decide for themselves pretty soon since the documentary will premiere on television not long after debuting at Sundance.

Deadline reports Leaving Neverland will debut both episodes of the documentary series at Sundance, and then it will air on HBO and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom sometime in the spring on two consecutive nights. An exact date has yet to be revealed. The runtime of the entire documentary series is 236 minutes.

Leaving Neverland is made by Amos Pictures and produced, directed and edited by Dan Reed, the man behind the BAFTA award-winning documentary The Paedophile Hunter as well as From Russia with Cash.

The sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson are very well known, so much that it’s become a common trend for jokes to be made about it. But for those who may have been part of the singer’s alleged transgressions, this is anything but a laughing matter. Will this documentary finally give weight to the allegations, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement? We’ll find out after the documentary premieres at Sundance on January 25.

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