Local law enforcement is preparing for potential demonstrations in the lead-up to the January 25 premiere of “Leaving Neverland,” a controversial new documentary about Michael Jackson, Deadline reports. The latest nonfiction feature from Dan Reed, “Leaving Neverland” investigates allegations of sexual abuse and child molestation against Michael Jackson, told through the personal stories of two of the musician’s alleged victims. Sundance announced the film was joining the 2019 lineup on January 9.
“We have increased our staffing out of concerns for the potential for a protest,” Captain Phil Kirk of the Park City Police told Deadline. Unofficially, however, anonymous sources say there have been direct threats against the film’s director, and that the real concern is over a potential incident inside the Egyptian Theatre.
“Tensions are higher for this movie than anything I’ve ever seen at Sundance before,” one law-enforcement source told Deadline. “No one is going to be prevented from exercising their Constitutional rights, but we are not going to allow this to get out of hand, in any way.”
“Leaving Neverland” has been condemned by Michael Jackson’s official estate. Following the news of its Sundance premiere, the estate issued the following statement: “This is yet 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. 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.”
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Sundance stood by its programming choice, releasing its own statement shortly after that it would not pull the film from the festival. The statement read in part, “Sundance Institute supports artists in enabling them to fully tell bold, independent stories, stories on topics which can be provocative or challenging.”
“Leaving Neverland” is a co-production between HBO and the UK’s Channel 4. The film is set to air on TV in the spring.