Michael Jackson gave his young male victims jewelry in exchange for sexual acts, according to damning new documentary Leaving Neverland which details fresh allegations of sexual abuse against the singer.
The explosive four-hour film, which had its world premiere on Friday at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, accuses The King of Pop of even staging a mock wedding complete with vows and a diamond ring with one boy, critics say.
‘Among the many, many disturbing revelations of #LeavingNverland: MJ gave one of his young male victims jewelry in exchange for sexual acts, and even staged a mock wedding complete with vows and diamond ring,’ wrote Patrick Ryan of USA Today.
‘Many common parallels in victims’ stories: MJ grooming them to hate their parents and women in general, saying God brought them together, eventually ‘casting them out’ for younger boys. ‘There was a lot of jealousy and hurt. You were no longer special.”
The film focuses on the accounts of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who have long claimed that they were raped and molested by the singer at his Neverland Ranch.
Jackson denied all allegations that he abused underage boys during his lifetime, and his estate has done the same in the decade since his death.
But the new documentary, which will air on HBO and Channel 4 in the UK, shows the Grammy award winning artist to be ‘a fiend, a smooth predator and a monster’, according to one critic who has seen it.
‘Leaving Neverland is a horror film – an intimate, obviously believable, sometimes sexually explicit story of two boys who became Michael Jackson’s special ‘friends’ – i.e., lovers – while their oblivious parents went along. Jackson was a fiend – a smooth predator, a monster,’ said Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere.
‘Feel sick to my stomach after watching Part 1 of #LeavingNeverland doc. Michael Jackson witnesses/sex abuse victims coming off very credible. It’s so sexually explicit that counselors are in the lobby,’ wrote Mara Reinstein of US Weekly.
‘Shaking. Wow. We were all wrong when we cheered for Michael Jackson. He was a pedophile.’
Robson and Safechuck both received a standing ovation from the audience after the film before tearfully answering questions about the documentary.
Both men go into graphic and specific detail about what allegedly happened in Jackson’s bedroom when they were just children, with both men claiming they were abused from approximately the age of 7 until they were 14.
Many of the critics did not get into the specifics of the film, though there were a few details revealed on Twitter.
Eugene Hernandez, the Deputy Director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, also provided some details, writing: ‘Halfway thru the doc, which in its 1st half graphically details Michael Jackson sexual abuse of Robson & Safechuck, I wondered why it needed 2 more hours… but in its 2nd half it reveals the journey of the victims to be able to talk about it.’
He weighed in after the film as well, writing: ‘This is deeply moving exploration of abuse from perspective of its victims/families. Overall well-shaped & constructed. Raises so many difficult questions abt parental roles, celebrity, secrets, fame, enabling behavior & abuse. Topics that could fill a 4 hour follow-up.’
As critics posted their thoughts, an army of Michael Jackson fans latched on to attack and refute the claims made in the film, despite the fact it was played for the first time in Utah on Friday.
It did not impact those who saw the film however, who were almost unanimous in their belief that this film presented damning evidence to support the allegations made by Robson and Safechuck.
The men took time to address their critics and naysayers after the screening, while making it clear they were not paid in any way for their participation in the film.
‘I don’t feel like there’s anything I need to say to them except that I understand that it’s really hard for them to believe,’ said Robson.
‘We can only accept and understand something when we’re ready, maybe we’ll never be ready, maybe we will. That’s their journey.’
Indiewire critic David Ehrlich wrote: ‘spoiler alert: Michael Jackson 100% sexually abused a lot of children.’
Even at intermission many were left shocked by what they had seen halfway through the film.
‘On a 10-min break halfway through Sundance’s 4-hour Michael Jackson child sex abuse documentary. Whatever you thought you knew or were aware of, the content of this is more disturbing than you could imagine. And again, we’re only halfway through, ‘ wrote Kevin Fallon of The Daily Beast.
Amy Kaufman of the Los Angeles Times said that before the movie screened, a warning was issued to guests by the festival director.
‘John Cooper warns the #LeavingNeverland audience that the docuseries contains explicit descriptions of sexual abuse involving minors and there are Healthcare professionals from the state of Utah in the lobby should filmgoers need to talk’ wrote Kaufman.
Matt Donnelly of Variety noted this too, tweeting: ‘#Sundance has provided health care professionals in the theater for audience members potentially upset by #LeavingNeverland’s explicit descriptions of sexual abuse against underage boys. They are in the wings ready with counsel.’
Kaufman also revealed that the film resonated with one man in particular, writing: ‘Incredibly emotional reaction from the audience after #LeavingNeverland. One audience member says he was molested as a child and that Robson and Safechuck ‘are going to do a lot more f–king good in the world than Michael f–king Jackson.”
Multiple critics were far more brief in their assessment of he film, but all used the same phrase.
‘Absolutely devastating,’ noted Marlow Stern of The Daily Beast and Hollywood Reporter writer Tatiana Siegel.
The word disgust also came up in a number of tweets responding to the film.
‘You should have seen the faces of the audience members during the ten-minute intermission of ‘Leaving Neverland.’ at the Egyptian. They had that look of hollowed-out nausea, submerged disgust…trying to hide their revulsion. The Jackson guilt denialists are finished. Jig’s up,’ wrote Wells.
‘Leaving Neverland is also, of course, a very sad story. Damage & dysfunction is passed on. You’re only as healthy or sick as the amount of ugly secrets you’re carrying around. Oh, and the two complicit mothers of the victims are dealt tough cards by their trying-to-heal sons.’
Jackson’s family is not staying quiet and last week the normally press shy Jacksons lashed out at HBO for picking up the documentary and Sundance for screening the feature.
Jackson’s nephew Taj, whose father is Tito, voiced his disgust on Twitter.
‘To all the sponsors of @Sundance. I suggest you do your own homework on Wade Robson and James Safechuck,’ read one of the tweets.
‘By supporting their lies, you are now part of this and we will remember that when everything implodes. You can’t plead ignorance anymore.’
He also wrote: ‘I’m sure there are some incredible films that will be premiering and shown at the festival. Films that people put their hard earned money and life into. But @Sundance is jeopardizing these films to accommodate, promote, and showcase a film that stars two proven scam artists.’
Jackson’s official account also shared a tweet aimed at shaming HBO which read: ‘In 1992, Michael gave HBO their highest rated special ever. Now, to repay him they give a voice to admitted liars. #StopLeavingNeverlandNOW.’
That was a reference to Jackson’s first ever televised concert, which aired on the network in October of 1992 after being filmed in Bucharest.
The special smashed the pay cable provider’s previews record, scoring a 21.4 rating and 34 share in the approximately 17.5 million homes with subscriptions.
Robson is known to many as the man who reportedly came between Britney Spearsand Justin Timberlake, and inspired Timberlake to write the break-up anthem Cry Me A River.
The Australian-born dancer, 36, previously filed a lawsuit against Jackson’s estate in 2016 asking for $1.62 billion in damages.
In his complaint, Robson claimed that he was raped by the King of Pop for seven years, starting when he was seven and ending when he was 14.
That suit was eventually tossed, with the judge ruling that the singer’s estate could not be held responsible for the allegations being made by Robson.
The court made no comments in the validity of the lawsuit, but Jackson’s family was very vocal about the fact that Robson had testified on the singer’s behalf at his 2005 trial.
Robson said in his court filing that the alleged abuse he suffered at the hands of Jackson included: ‘kissing and french kissing; Michael Jackson rubbing [Robson’s] penis and having [Robson] rub his; Michael Jackson masturbating while watching [Robson] from behind on all fours, naked, with his knees and palms extended like a dog on all fours; Michael Jackson spreading [Robon’s] buttocks and sticking his tongue into and licking [Robson’s] anus while he masturbated using lotion; the mutual fondling of genitals with their hands and mouth; mutual fellatio’ and more.
He also alleged in his suit that Jackson lost interest in him when he turned 14, but prior to that had told the young boy: ‘We can never tell anyone what we are doing. People are ignorant and they would never understand that we love each other and this is how we show it. If anyone were to ever find out our lives and career would be over.’
Fans of Jackson and his family were shocked when they learned about the filing given that Robson had been a crucial witness in Jackson’s acquittal on similar charges back in 2005.
At that trial he testified under oath that Jackson had never once touched him inappropriately or abused him during their time together.
Robson responded to the criticism by stating: ‘I did not believe that I was forced. I believed that I was a consenting participant in the sexual acts.’