Demonstrators showed up to protest outside the Sundance Film Festival premiere of the new Michael Jackson documentary that follows two men who claim the late singer had sexually abused them when they were kids.
Leaving Neverland is a 4-hour documentary that follows Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege that the singer abused them at the ages of 7 and 10. It also details Jackson’s relationship with their families. Now in their 30s, the men open up about coming to terms with the abuse years later.
Though the protest was sparsely attended, according to Variety, it was expected as fans of the late King of Pop grapple with accusations made against him years ago resurfacing in today’s mainstream — especially amidst the current Me Too movement.
“This film is not about giving a voice to a victim,” Catherine Van Tighem, one of the two protesters, told Variety. “The people that are featured in this film have already had their day in court and they have been legally denied. They were seeking financial gain and the case was dismissed … if Michael were alive today, this film would be considered defamation.”
Robson’s account is controversial because he previously said under oath that Jackson never behaved inappropriately with him before changing his account in a 2016 lawsuit. Safechuck filed a separate suit in 2014.
Jackson, who passed away in 2009, was acquitted of sexually molesting two brothers in 2005. The criminal trial came after Jackson paid a civil settlement in 1994 over accusations that the pop singer molested another young boy. According to The Wrap, neither the brothers nor the boy, now in his 30s, are the subjects of Leaving Neverland.
A representative for Jackson’s estate told The Wrap, “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
“This so-called ‘documentary’ is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations,” Jackson’s rep continued. “It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project.”