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Michael Jackson estate brands new abuse documentary “outrageous and pathetic”

By | Published on Friday 11 January 2019

Michael Jackson

The Michael Jackson estate has described a new documentary about child abuse allegations made against the late king of pop as “outrageous and pathetic”. ‘Leaving Neverland’ is set to premiere at the Sundance film festival later this month, before being broadcast in the UK by Channel 4 in the spring.

“This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson”, the estate has told TMZ. “[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”.

Directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Dan Reed, ‘Leaving Neverland’ focusses on claims made by two men who allege that they were abused by Michael Jackson as children. The blurb for the film says that it “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 two accusers in the documentary are Wade Robson and James Safechuck, both of whom launched legal action in relation to their respective abuse allegations after Jackson’s death in 2009, Robson in 2013 and Safechuck in 2014. Both cases were dismissed before reaching trial, the courts saying that they had waited too long to launch civil proceedings in relation to the abuse allegations.

Prior to that, while Jackson was still alive, both men had testified in defence of the star while he fought off previous child molestation claims, Robson during Jackson’s 2005 high profile criminal trial, contributing to the musician’s acquittal. These testimonies are something the estate notes in its statement, saying that “both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them”.

While the estate says that the men’s claims have already been “discredited”, their attorney Vince Finaldi argues that this is not the case, telling the Associated Press: “There were never any rulings to the court as to their testimony. We stand by our clients, and we believe them, and we fully expect them to be vindicated”.

Reed also said in a statement: “It took great courage for these two men to tell their stories and I have no question about their validity. If there’s anything we’ve learned during this time in our history, it’s that sexual abuse is complicated, and survivors’ voices need to be listened to”.

The documentary will be screened twice at Sundance, on 25 Jan and 26 Jan. Channel 4 has not yet announced dates for its UK TV broadcast.