A new documentary titled Leaving Neverland hit the Sundance Film Festival on Friday. Detailing nearly a decade of alleged abuse against two boys, who were just 5 and 10 years old when they met the late singer, it has been condemned by the Jackson estate, who call it “yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
The festival took precautions to screen the four-hour documentary, which goes into vivid detail into the alleged relationships between the King of Pop and Wade Robson and James Safechuck.
At least seven police officers were present after threats of violence, and state healthcare workers were present to attend to any audience members upset by the disturbing material. Apparently, some viewers had to leave the screening during explicit descriptions of abuse.
Robson, who went on to become a choreographer for N'SYNC and Britney Spears, met Jackson in 1987 as a five-year-old, where he and his family were invited to Jackson's Neverland Ranch. “He helped me with my career,” Robson says in the doc. “He also sexually abused me for seven years.”
While he and his family were staying at the 2,700-acre estate, which had its own carnival, zoo and movie theatre, he and his 10-year-old sister were invited to sleep in his bedroom. Then, the night before they were due to depart, Robson woke up to Jackson crying on the floor in the dark.
“I’m just so sad you are going to leave,” he said. The next day, Jackson convinced the mother to let Robson stay five more days while the rest of the family visited Arizona. “Once the abuse started that first week, every night I was with him there was abuse, with my mother in the next room,” Robson said.
Robson claims that what started as fondling, evolved to kissing, showering, masturbating, and oral sex. “You and I were brought together by God. This is how we show our love,” Jackson allegedly told him, while also calling him "son" and telling him "Don't trust women" in order to put a wedge between him and his mother.
As a ten-year-old, Safechuck starred in a Pepsi commercial with Jackson in 1987, where he struck up a friendship with the singer. He and his family were invited to Hawaii, where he asked the young boy to sleep in his room. “I didn’t think it was appropriate for my son to go sleep with him,” his mother, Stephanie, said.
He then spent his entire summer with the singer, where he was introduced to celebrities such as Harrison Ford and Tina Turner, while he and his family were showered with gifts and free vacations. But things soon took a turn. “In Paris, he introduced me to masturbation, and that’s how it all started,” Safechuck says.
He was made to run drills to get his clothes on as quickly and quietly as possible, to prepare in case someone discovered them together. Safechuck claims that Jackson warned him: “If people find out, his life would be over and my life would be over.”
Once he visited Neverland Ranch, Safechuck said that Jackson had sexual relations with him in various rooms of the estate. “It happened every day,” he said, even detailing a mock wedding ceremony between the two of them, with written vows and a diamond ring. Both men have admitted that at the time they felt as if they were in love with Jackson, which crippled them into adulthood as they tried to come to terms with what had happened.
However, they eventually found that Jackson had lost interest in them, moving onto other objects of affection, including Macaulay Culkin. The Home Alone actor has continued to deny that any sexual abuse occurred, but Safechuck and Robson claimed besides him that there were other, younger, children, who they were replaced with. By 1992, “[Another] boy would sleep in Michael’s room and I would sleep on the sofa,” Safechuck says.
He also recalled that Michael had told him that he would have "public relationships with women," alluding to his marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe. By 1993, Jackson had been accused of sexual abuse by Jordy Chandler, and both Safechuck and Robson had to take the to the stand.
“Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them,” the Jackson estate said in a statement. While it is true that they claimed nothing happened in court, they have now claimed that Jackson's team coached them to say "no" to every question when they took to the stand. The case was settled out of court for millions of dollars.
Both men are now married with their own children, and report to have suffered from depression and panic attacks in their lifetime. They both came clean with their version of events in 2015, and, according to Robson, protecting his own son was a major part of the decision. After the screening, the "ashen-faced" audience gave both men a standing ovation.
The documentary will be shown on HBO in Spring 2019.