sundance michael jackson documentary

The Sundance Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland is facing backlash before anyone has even had a chance to see it. A new report reveals fans of the late singer are threatening to protest the screening of the documentary, leading local police to increase staff. The doc is a nearly 4-hour exposé investigating the allegations of sexual abuse levied against the King of Pop during his lifetime.

Deadline is reporting that the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland is causing concerns in Park City. “We have increased our staffing out of concerns for the potential for a protest,” said Captain Phil Kirk (that’s right, a real-life Captain Kirk) of the Park City Police. Word has it that there have been “direct threats” against Leaving Neverland filmmaker Dan Reed. Here’s the official Sundance synopsis of the doc:

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.

Allegations against Jackson plagued his career, and in 2004, the singer was charged with molesting 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo. After 18 months, the pop star was acquitted on all charges. Jackson’s estate has called Leaving Neverland “another rehash of dated and discredited allegations.”

Sundance issued the following statement to its corporate sponsors, including Amazon, Netflix, and more:

“It has come to our attention that some of you may have received messages or social media posts from Michael Jackson fans who would like us to pull the screening of Leaving Neverland. We don’t currently plan to comment publicly or engage in the discourse around Leaving Neverland, and would recommend that you do the same. We plan to proceed with the screening as announced. If you do plan to participate in the conversation, we’d welcome the opportunity to collaborate on your messaging.”

The plan, as of now, is for Reed and Wade Robson and James Safechuck, subjects of the doc who claim they were sexually abused by Jackson, to host a Q&A following the film’s screening. That might change now. There’s always a chance that Sundance might get cold feet and pull the doc at the last minute. For now, though, Leaving Neverland is set to premiere on January 25, with police – and even the bomb squad – standing by. The doc will air on HBO later this year.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: