×

Michael Jackson Sexual Abuse Documentary Added to Sundance Lineup

The Sundance Film Festival has added the world premiere of the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which focuses on sexual abuse allegations against the late pop star Michael Jackson.

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.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rob Schneider'The Week Of' film premiere,

    Film News Roundup: Rob Schneider Wins SAG-AFTRA National Board Seat

    In today’s film news roundup, Rob Schneider wins a SAG-AFTRA board seat; “Badland,” “Sorry We Missed You” and “Extracurricular” find homes; and “The Shawshank Redemption” gets a re-release.  SAG-AFTRA Rob Schneider has won a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Schneider won a four-year term [...]

  • This photo shows actor David Oyelowo

    David Oyelowo Joins George Clooney in 'Good Morning, Midnight' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    David Oyelowo is in final negotiations to join George Clooney in Netflix’s untitled adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s 2016 novel “Good Morning, Midnight,” sources tell Variety. Felicity Jones and Kyle Chandler are also on board, with Clooney set to helm the pic — his first feature film directing gig since 2017’s “Suburbicon.” “The Revenant” screenwriter Mark [...]

  • Disney Delays 'Cruella,' 'Woman in the

    Disney Delays 'Cruella,' 'Woman in the Window'

    Disney is shaking up its release calendar, delaying its live action “Cruella” until Memorial Day 2021 and pushing Fox 2000 drama “The Woman in the Window” to 2020. “Cruella,” starring Emma Stone, is based on the classic “101 Dalmatians” villain Cruella de Vil. The revisit to Disney’s animated classic was originally set to hit theaters [...]

  • Spider-Man Could Leave the Marvel Cinematic

    Spider-Man Could Leave MCU if Disney, Sony Can't Reach Financing Deal

    Disney’s Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures have hit an impasse on new financing terms for upcoming Spider-Man movies, sources have told Variety. If a deal cannot be reached, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige will not produce future Spider-Man films, effectively removing Tom Holland’s Spider-Man from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Reps for Disney, Marvel and Sony [...]

  • Australia Makes Progress on Gender Equality

    Australia Makes Progress on Gender Equality in Film and TV

    Screen Australia, Australia’s federal film and TV funding body, has made sufficient progress in furthering gender equality that it has set more ambitious targets. The organization has exceeded its long-term Gender Matters key performance indicator, with 56% of projects receiving production funding having at least half of the key creative roles occupied by women, based [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content