The movie, produced and directed by Dan Reed, describes how Jackson allegedly began long-running relationships with two boys, aged 7 and 10, and their families while at the peak of his fame. The two, now in their 30s, claim that they were sexually abused by Jackson, and reveal how they came to terms with it years later.
Representatives for the Jackson estate issued a one-sentence statement in response to Wednesday’s announcement: “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
“Neverland” refers to the Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, Calif., where Jackson lived between 1988 and 2003. The property was raided by law enforcement in 2003 in connection with molestation accusations against Jackson by a 13-year-old boy. Jackson was acquitted by jurors of all 14 criminal counts against him in state court in 2005.
“Leaving Neverland” will screen in the special event category at the festival in two parts, totaling nearly four hours, followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.
“Through gut-wrenching interviews with the now-adult men and their families, ‘Leaving Neverland’ crafts a portrait of sustained exploitation and deception, documenting the power of celebrity that allowed a revered figure to infiltrate the lives of starstruck children and their parents,” the synopsis reads.
Reed’s credits include HBO’s “Terror”; “The Paedophile Hunter”; docudrama “Shooters,” featuring a cast of real-life underworld gunmen; the war documentary “The Valley”; and money-laundering story “From Russia With Cash.”
Sundance also added the world premiere of the Steve Bannon documentary “The Brink,” directed by Alison Klayman and produced by Marie Therese Guirgis. The film focuses on the former White House chief strategist traveling around the world, spreading his hard-line anti-immigration message. Magnolia Pictures just acquired the pic.
The two additions bring the number of movies for Sundance to 241 projects, from 49 countries. The festival launches on Jan. 24.