Kew Media Distribution has boarded controversial Michael Jackson sex-abuse documentary “Leaving Neverland” ahead of its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Kew Media has taken international distribution rights (excluding U.K. and U.S.) to the two-part documentary, which is a co-production of HBO and British broadcaster Channel 4.
Directed by BAFTA-winner Dan Reed, “Leaving Neverland” features two men, James Safechuck and Wade Robson, now in their 30s, who allege that they were sexually abused by the entertainer when they were 10 and 7, respectively. The documentary also features interviews with their mothers, wives and siblings, painting a portrait of sustained abuse and exploring the complicated feelings that led the two men to confront their experiences after both had young sons of their own. It is produced by AMOS Pictures.
Jonathan Ford, executive vice president of sales for Kew Media Distribution, said the acquisition reinforced Kew Media’s commitment to “providing strong and emotive programming to Kew Media Distribution’s roster of clients around the world.”
The film’s addition to the Sundance lineup was announced last week and immediately sparked the anger of Jackson fans. His estate has denounced the documentary, calling it “yet another lurid production” attempting to “exploit and cash in” on the late singer. The statement read: “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.”
Sundance issued a statement to corporate partners Tuesday saying it would not bow to pressure to pull the documentary from its lineup.
“It has come to our attention that some of you may have received messages or social media posts from Michael Jackson fans who would like us to pull the screening of ‘Leaving Neverland,’” the statement read. “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.”
The statement said Sundance did not “currently plan to comment publicly or engage in the discourse around ‘Leaving Neverland’” and advised corporate partners to refrain as well.
Reed, who has won three BAFTAs, most recently for 2014’s “The Pedophile Hunter,” said: “I believe anyone who watches this film will see and feel the emotional toll on the men and their families and will appreciate the strength it takes to confront long-held secrets.”
Allegations of abuse by Jackson first surfaced in 1993. He was later acquitted of molesting 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo in 2005, following an 18-month trial.
The documentary will air on HBO and Channel 4 this spring.