After weeks of pushback from Michael Jackson’s estate, HBO’s highly anticipated “Leaving Neverland” bowed at the Sundance Film Festival Friday morning.
“We’re getting real really early,” festival director John Cooper said as he introduced the four-hour documentary, which details allegations of child molestation against the late pop icon. Police officers were stationed outside the Egyptian Theatre in case of protesters, and healthcare professionals were on hand in the lobby for audience members who could be triggered by the film’s graphic descriptions of sexual abuse involving minors.
“Neverland” centers on accusers Wade Robson, 36, and James Safechuck, 40, who allege that Jackson began sexually abusing them at ages 7 and 10, respectively. At the time, both boys were diehard fans with entertainment aspirations of their own: Robson, who went on to choreograph for Britney Spears and *NSYNC as an adult, first met Jackson after winning a dance contest during the singer’s 1987 Bad tour in Australia. Safechuck, a child actor, appeared with Jackson that same year in a Pepsi commercial and says he began to hang out regularly with the star in Los Angeles.