Directed by Dan Reed, Leaving Neverland is a two-part documentary that follows the lives of James Safechuck and Wade Robson – the two boys who were allegedly sexually abused by the late pop singer Michael Jackson. The documentary takes up the story when the boys were aged ten and seven respectively and were befriended by Jackson. The gut-wrenching trailer is hard-hitting and sombre and immediately tells you that it is not a story of Michael Jackson’s achievements, but a look at his alleged shady past and how it affected some people.
The trailer opens with a voice-over from Safechuck: “Everybody wanted to meet Michael, or be with Michael. And then he likes you.” It immediately becomes clear that Leaving Neverland is the story from the ‘victims’ side. The video highlights that Neverland had everything that a child could ask for. It then shows footage of a couple of interviews with Safechuck and Robson and aims to look at how the two men came to terms with their experiences with Michael. At one point, Robson says: “He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail.”
The trailer also shows footage of children playing in Neverland and still images of Robson and Safechuck with the late singer. There’s also a clip of Jackson wishing Wade a happy birthday. From the trailer, it looks like the documentary aims to investigate ordeal that the two men faced post their acquaintance with Jackson.
Social media comments on the trailer show that many have not taken kindly to it. Accusations of sexually abusing children were filed against Jackson towards the latter part of his career. The first one was in 1993 when he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old. However, Jackson was never proved guilty, and the case was settled out of the court for $23 million. Other cases of sexual abuse came up against Jackson, but he was again, found not guilty. When Robson and James filed sexual abuse cases against Jackson in 2013 and 2014, the singer had already passed away (2009). Both those cases were dismissed as they were filed a long time since the alleged incidents.
While Leaving Neverland has been met with criticism by social media users, director Reed defends it. “This is not a movie about Michael Jackson abusing little boys. It’s a movie about two families and how two families came to terms with what their sons revealed to them many years after Jackson died,” he tells Variety. Leaving Neverland is being marketed as the story of two individuals and their families. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be released on HBO on March 3 and 4.