Following the death of Michael Jackson, many didn't know how to digest the passing of the late popstar. While his musical achievements were vast, his legacy was irreparably and justifiably stained by the various child molestation claims lodged against him.
Jackson's sordid relationship with sexual assault is investigated in the upcoming documentary Leaving Neverland, which is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, with an HBO premiere shortly thereafter. Directed by Dan Reed, the film features two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who allege they were sexually abused by Jackson when they were seven and ten years old. In addition to the two men, who are now both in their 30s, the documentary interviews their families and friends, projecting the lasting effect that victims of sexual assault endure.
After Sundance announced their 2019 lineup, many Jackson fans expressed discontent with the festival's decision to include the documentary. However, fans were not the only ones angered by the film's premiere. Michael Jackson's estate also claimed, “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson."
However, on Thursday, the estate took to Twitter in attempt to frame HBO's actions as hypocritical. "In 1992, Michael gave HBO their highest rated special ever. Now, to repay him they give a voice to admitted liars," they wrote.
In response to the pressures Sundance was receiving, the festival's administrators issued a statement to reiterate that Leaving Neverland will not be pulled from the festival's lineup. "Sundance Institute supports artists in enabling them to fully tell bold, independent stories, stories on topics which can be provocative or challenging. We look forward to audiences at the Festival seeing these films and judging the work for themselves, and discussing it afterwards."
Despite the attempts to delegitimize the victims' claims, Jackson was accused of sexual assault as early as 1993, 16 years before his death. Although the case never made it to a courtroom, he faced similar allegations in 2005 before being acquitted.
The Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, which documents Kelly's widely known history of sexual abuse, recently illustrated how an artist's professional successes has the power of thinly masking the horrendous acts they conduct behind closed doors. Similar to Surviving R. Kelly, HBO's Leaving Neverland will give victims of sexual assault the opportunity to tell their stories.