A new Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, premiered Friday (Jan. 25) at the Sundance Film Festival.
The documentary explores the longstanding allegations of Michael’s predatory behavior and sexual abuse of young boys.
In the two-part documentary, two men—Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 42, and their families—explain how Jackson befriended the boys during the mid-to-late 1980s and then sexually abused them during separate sleepovers at his Neverland Ranch. The alleged abuse endured for several years, and they swore to keep the encounters a secret.
After the documentary premiered to a standing ovation, Jackson’s estate released a statement slamming the documentary calling it “the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. The estate also called the victims “two perjures,” and added that Jackson “treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful” to them.
“The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago,” the statement concludes, “and treats them as fact.”
The documentary recounts both men’s experiences in detail, which include “incidents of masturbation, kissing, oral sex—at least once while Safechuck was sleeping—being forced to caress Jackson’s nipples, bending over for him while he pleasured himself, and being coaxed into painful anal sex,” according to the Daily Beast.
Reactions to the film have been split. Over the years, both men’s stories have been contradictory and many believe the documentary was meant to damage Jackson’s legacy. Many fans have reacted the same on social media and are attempting to discredit the documentary.
Leaving Neverland is set to air on HBO later this year.
Leaving Neverland is gutting, heartbreaking, harrowing. Less an adjudication of Michael Jackson’s cultural legacy than a blow-by-blow of the effects of his crimes. Holy fuck.
— Matt Jacobs (@tarantallegra) January 25, 2019
Just saw this #LeavingNeverland documentary. As a professional filmmaker, is easy to detect that it’s more a mockumentary than a proper impartial documentary. Couldn’t believe a word of the both “victims”. Bad acting. At times, shameful. Directing and script was even worse. 1/10
— Marcos Cabotá (@MarcosCabota) January 25, 2019
— Scott Menzel (@TheOtherScottM) January 25, 2019
My family and I have known Wade and his family since he came to America. Don’t tell me a 4 hour one sided hit job that you watched is more reputable than people who actually knew him and saw his interactions. This is all about money and the desperate need to be relevant again.
— Taj Jackson (@tajjackson3) January 26, 2019
Painful. Brutally upsetting. Triggering. My heart is incredibly broken. I’m sorry y’all. This hurts. Bad. #LeavingNeverland
— Gerrick D. Kennedy (@GerrickKennedy) January 25, 2019