Leaving Neverland, the four-hour documentary about Michael Jackson's relationship with two young boys, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last week, leaving audiences stunned and silenced. The film was denounced by members of the Jackson family, who called it a "public lynching" in a new statement Monday.
In the film, directed by Dan Reed, Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck discuss their relationships with Jackson, which began when they were 7 and 10 years old, respectively.
Safechuck and Robson both sued the Jackson estate after the "Thriller" singer's death in 2009, but they were both dismissed by judges. Robson also agreed to testify on Jackson's behalf during Jackson's 2005 trial, when the singer was accused of molesting 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo.
Scroll on for a look at five shocking allegations made in Leaving Neverland.
The Alleged Abuse Began at Early Ages
Robson, who grew up to be a successful choreographer for Britney Spears and *NSYNC, said he met Jackson when he was 7, after he won a dance contest during Jackson's 1987 Bad World Tour. Safecheck said he met Jackson when he was 10 when they filmed 1987 Pepsi commercial together.
According to Us Weekly, Robson claims in the film his family met Jackson again in 1990 during a visit to Los Angeles. Jackson convinced Robson and his mom to let him sleep over his home while the rest of Robson's family visited the Grand Canyon. Robson claims Jackson performed oral sex on him and put his tongue in his mouth.
Safechuck said Jackson took his family on tours with him and his sleepovers at the Neverland Ranch allegedly included graphic sexual encounters. Safechuck said Jackson taught him how to masturbate at 10 years old, and the abuse only got worse.prevnext
Safechuck Claims Jackson Gave Him a Wedding Ring
In one scene of the film, Safechuck said Jackson had a mock wedding ceremony, in which the two exchanged vows.
Safechuck claims Jackson gave him a diamond-encrusted wedding ring, which he still has. Safechuck brought out the ring, which he keeps in a jewelery box filled with gifts he claims Jackson gave him after he performed sexual acts, to show the cameras.
"It's still hard for me to not blame myself," Safechuck said.prevnext
Safechuck Claims Jackson Said His Public Relationships With Women Were Meaningless
Safechuck also claims Jackson told him the public relationships he had with women "wouldn't mean anything."
Jackson was briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley from 1994 to 1996. He later married Debbie Rowe, the mother of Paris Jackson and Prince Jackson, in 1994. They divorced in 1999.prevnext
Robson Was 'Sidelined' After Macaulay Culkin Entered Jackson's Life
Robson and his family told Reed Jackson convinced them to make the move from Australia to Los Angeles in 1991 and even offered to pay their expenses. But when Robson finally moved, things were different, and Robson figured it out when he arrived at the set for the "Black and White" video. Home Alone actor Macaulay Culkin came into Jackson's life, and Robson felt "sidelined."
In 1993, Jackson asked Robson to testify on his behalf when Jackson was first publicly accused of sexually abusing a child. The case ended with a settlement, after which, Robson claims Jackson had sex with him. Robson was 14 at the time.prevnext
Jackson Taught Them 'Emergency Drills' to Avoid Being Cuaght
In Leaving Neverland, Safechuck claims Jackson taught him "emergency drills" to avoid being caught. In case someone saw them, Jackson taught him how to get in his clothes quickly. He claims they had sex all over Neverland. If he told anyone about what they were doing, Jackson told him their "lives would be over."
Safechuck denied any wrongdoing for a decade, but he later opened up to his mother and wife. Robson said he defended Jackson because Jackson told him he could go to prison for the rest of his life.prevnext
Jackson's Family Calls the Film a 'Tabloid Character Assassination'
Most critics gave the film positive reviews and said it would forever change how some perceive the King of Pop. Jackson's family called it "one-sided" and a "tabloid character assassination."
The family released another statement on Monday, expressing anger that the media "chose to believe the word of two admitted liars over the word of hundreds of families and friends around the world who spent time with Michael, many at Neverland, and experienced his legendary kindness and global generosity."
The statement continued, "Michael always turned the other cheek, and we have always turned the other cheek when people have gone after members of our family - that is the Jackson way. But we can't just stand by while this public lynching goes on, and the vulture tweeters and others who never met Michael go after him. Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made."prevnext
Jackson's Nephew Started a GoFundMe Account to Fund a Counter-Documentary
Jackson's nephew, Taj Jackson, also launched a GoFundMe account to raise $777,000 to make a counter-documentary. In six days, 905 people have donated $32,444.
"Once again, we have to defend Michael Jackson's name and legacy from vicious and calculated lies," Taj Jackson wrote. "We can no longer sit back and wait for the 'right thing' to be reported or for someone else to step in and champion our cause. This is on us – fans, friends and family. I know that the unanimous acquittals and the FBI's 10-year investigation (resulting in my Uncle's complete exoneration) should have been enough. The worst thing we can do is let this continued slander go unchallenged. I know that when we as a group are united, we are unstoppable. So I need your help."prevnext
'Leaving Neverland' Will Air on HBO in the Spring
Leaving Neverland will be released by HBO. The network has not scheduled a premiere date, but it will air sometime in the spring.0comments
The film earned mostly positive reviews from the critics who attended the premiere screening. According to Variety's review, the film's second part deals with how Robson and Safechuck came to terms with their trauma after Jackson's death.
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