Dan Reed's film is based on accounts of two men who say 'King of Pop' sexually abused them as children
HBO has set a premiere date for Leaving Neverland, the cable channel's controversial documentary on Michael Jackson, and it's coming up soon.
Part one of the film will debut Sunday, March 3, HBO announced at the winter Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. The second and final part will debut the following night. British filmmaker Dan Reed directed the four hour-long documentary, which focuses on the accounts of two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who say Jackson sexually abused them for years when they were boys. The Jackson family has denounced their story as "pathetic."
From the get go there was no money ever offered. This was really just trying to tell the story, shine light on it.
Leaving Neverland premiered at the Sundance Film Festival two weeks ago, an event we attended. At a Q&A afterwards, where Safechuck and Robson were greeted with a standing ovation, the men described their motives for participating in the film.
"We can't change what happened to us. And we can't particularly do anything about stopping Michael, I mean he's dead. That's gone, right. What happened happened," Robson told the audience at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah. "So the feeling is, 'What can we do with it now?' How can we use this platform to tell the story and hopefully it helps other survivors feel less isolated and something they can relate to and validates their story."
Safechuck added, "From the get-go there was no money ever offered [to appear in the film]. This was really just trying to tell the story, shine light on it, the same way knowing that Wade went through it, we can give other people that same connection and comfort that we've gone through."
In the film, Safechuck recounts how Jackson allegedly seduced him at the age of 10, and recalls how they later participated in a faux wedding ceremony to consecrate their romantic bond. Robson describes a sexual relationship with Jackson that allegedly began when the boy was seven and lasted until he was 14.
Into adulthood Safechuck and Robson continued to defend Jackson and deny he abused them, but they say it was only after years of therapy that they felt able to reveal the truth,
A statement from the Jackson camp dismisses the men as liars.
“This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson,” the singer's estate writes. “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.”
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.