After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, Dan Reed’s just-announced Michael Jackson documentary “Leaving Neverland” has locked a spring broadcast date with HBO and Channel 4. The four-hour-long project was a late addition to the festival, which only announced its inclusion yesterday afternoon. The cable outlets co-produced the documentary from the award-winning filmmaker behind HBO’s own “Terror” series, and it’s been billed as a series told in a pair of two-hour segments, not one four-hour-long feature film.
The project centers on “two men who recount their experiences of being sexually abused by Michael Jackson.” After the project was added to the festival lineup, the Estate of Michael Jackson released a statement that read, in part, “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. It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project.”
Per a synopsis in today’s announcement, “When allegations of abuse by Jackson involving young boys surfaced in 1993, many found it hard to believe that he could be guilty of such unspeakable acts. ‘Leaving Neverland’ explores the experiences of two young boys, James Safechuck, at age ten, and Wade Robson, at age seven, who were both befriended by Jackson. They and their families were entranced by the singer’s fairy-tale existence as his career reached its peak. … Through gut-wrenching interviews with Safechuck and Robson, now in their 30s, as well as their mothers, wives and siblings, ‘Leaving Neverland’ crafts a portrait of sustained abuse, and explores the complicated feelings that led both men to confront their experiences after each had a young son of his own. Playing out against the backdrop of our collective experience, the film documents the value of breaking silence, even when it implicates a powerful and revered figure.”
In a statement, Reed added, “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. It took great courage for these two men to tell their stories and I have no question about their validity. I believe anyone who watches this film will see and feel the emotional toll on the men and their families and will appreciate the strength it takes to confront long-held secrets.”
“Leaving Neverland” will premiere on HBO and Channel 4 this spring.