How Michael Jackson’s ‘Leaving Neverland’ shocked, sickened Sundance audience

Michael Jackson’s cover art for the album “Bad.” Photo courtesy of Michael Jackson estate

While the public continues to reel from the volcanic documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, we have the arrival of the flammable docu-series about another legendary singer-songwriter, the King of Pop.

Pushback for the two-part, four-hour Michael Jackson documentary from fans was so intense that police were stationed outside the Egyptian theater at the Sundance Film Festival in suburban Salt Lake City. The Dan Reed-directed Leaving Neverland reportedly left journalists shellshocked, horrified and sickened.

The searing Leaving Neverland takes a painstaking, graphic look into the allegedly perverted private behavior of the Thriller singer. The two accusers, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, were both present at the premiere and tearily detailed their stories of Jackson’s alleged abuse of them when they were children.

Jackson’s estate adamantly opposed the release of the film for the past month, saying, according to USA Today, that it “isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact.”

As some urban fans wonder when documentaries will be made on the likes of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, former “Today” host Matt Lauer, comedian Louis CK, Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey and hundreds of other pop culture personalities, the attendees at the Sundance debut described being floored by the Jackson film.

USA Today reporter who was on hand for the Leaving Neverland screening in Park City, Utah, said this:


Entertainment reporter Mara Reinstein tweeted, according to BBC News, that she was “Shaking. Wow. We were all wrong when we cheered for Michael Jackson.” She also said this on Twitter:


Here are a few of the shocking allegations made against MJ in Leaving Neverland, according to BBC News, USA Today and Variety magazine.

  • Michael Jackson engaged in a lot of sex with boys all over the Neverland ranch and introduced one of them to masturbation, BBC News reports;
  • Jackson would run “drills” to ensure they would never get caught, including seeing how fast they could all get dressed without making noise. This would allegedly come in handy during the times when Jackson and the boys’ families would stay in the same hotel, according to Variety;
  • Jackson told one of the boys that his marriage to Lisa Marie Pressley was completely fake. Safechuck alleges in the film that Jackson told him he “had to have public relationships with women” but “it wouldn’t mean anything,” USA Today states;
  • After a time away from Jackson, where Robson experienced a growth spurt, MJ allegedly tried to penetrate Robson’s rectum but the experience was too painful. Jackson is said to have stopped. Later that day, Jackson allegedly asked him if there was any blood on the underwear and demanded he get rid of the underwear. When Robson was taking off his underwear, he did notice blood and then dutifully discarded the garment, Variety reports.

The documentary Neverland Ranch is scheduled to premiere on HBO in the spring.

Terry Shropshire
Terry Shropshire

A military veteran and Buckeye State native, I've written for the likes of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Detroit Free Press. I'm a lover of words, photography, books, travel, animals and The Ohio State Buckeyes. #GoBucks

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