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Documentary Exploring Michael Jackson's Alleged Sex Abuse Gets Sundance Premiere

'Leaving Neverland' follows "two families whose boys were sexually abused by Michael Jackson," according to the film, but the King of Pop's estate has blasted it as a "pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in" on the singer.

By Dorian Geiger
Michael Jackson

A new documentary about Michael Jackson’s alleged abuse of two young boys at his infamous "Neverland Ranch" in California will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

The two-part documentary "Leaving Neverland," directed by British filmmaker Dan Reed, will make its debut on Jan. 25 in the festival’s Special Events category.

“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,” the film’s synopsis reads.

Jackson lived at Neverland Ranch from 1988 to 2003 and outfitted it with a personal children’s amusement park that included a zoo, artificial lake, and even carinval rides where he could “stay a kid forever.” Jackson frequently hosted groups of young fans, as well as neglected and terminally ill children. Neverland was raided by authorities in 2003 after a 13-year-old boy accused Jackson of molestation.

“At the height of his stardom, Michael Jackson began long-running relationships with two boys, aged 7 and 10, and their families,” the synopsis adds. “Now in their 30s, they tell the story of how they were sexually abused by Jackson, and how they came to terms with it years later.”

But it’s unknown who the two accusers are. The two boys who accused Jackson in the entertainer’s 2005 criminal trial are in their 20s, according to the Wrap. Wade Robson, a 36-year-old choreographer, filed a lawsuit against Jackson’s estate in 2013, alleging that Jackson molested him when he was 7. But the case was thrown out in 2017. In 2016, widespread allegations also surfaced that Jackson kept an extensive collection of child pornography at Neverland. His estate denied those claims.

However, a promotional image for “Leaving Neverland” on Reed's Amos Pictures website shows the King of Pop and Robson together.

In a statement, Michael Jackson’s estate slammed Reed’s film as “another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”

“Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them,” the statement continues. “Safechuck and Robson, the latter a self-proclaimed ‘master of deception,’ filed lawsuits against Michael’s estate, asking for millions of dollars. Both lawsuits were dismissed. This so-called ‘documentary’ is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations. It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project.”

It’s unclear how the film will impact Jackson’s legacy. “Leaving Neverland” follows closely on the heels of the explosive docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which rocked the entertainment world this month with its allegations of sustained sexual abuse of women and girls by R. Kelly, leading to a widespread boycott of the R&B singer’s music.

Some fans of Jackson took to Twitter to defend the singer and demand “Leaving Neverland” be banned from the Sundance lineup using the hashtag #JusticeForMJ

Jackson died in 2009 in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles following a pharmaceutical drug overdose. Neverland has since been renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch. The property is valued at $67 million and is currently for sale, according to Business Insider.

[Photo: Getty Images]