Wade Robson and James Safechuck didn’t know what to suppose when the lights went up after the primary public screening of Leaving Neverland late final month on the Sundance Film Festival. In the 236-minute documentary that may air in two components on HBO and Britain’s Channel four in March, each describe, in harrowing element, how they are saying Michael Jackson sexually abused them as boys. It was the second time they’d seen it and the primary with an viewers.
At intermission director Dan Reed even puzzled whether or not or not they have been going to have the ability to make it via the Q&A they’d promised to do. Safechuck mentioned it was like being “punched within the face.” But they stayed, and watched, and because the credit rolled the couple hundred individuals within the viewers stood and applauded solemnly.
Robson, 36, and Safechuck, 40, made their solution to the stage, a bit shell-shocked nonetheless from reliving all of it once more, however overcome with emotion. It took them a minute to understand why: It was the primary time they’d ever skilled public help for telling their tales.
It’s been a tumultuous few years for each males, ever since they got here ahead as adults to allege abuse after Jackson had died in 2009 and after having beforehand mentioned at totally different factors that there was none. Robson testified in Jackson’s protection on the 2005 molestation trial that with the famous person’s acquittal. Lawsuits towards Jackson’s property detailing the abuse have been dismissed for procedural reasons, though an enchantment is pending. The property continues to attack their credibility , they usually’ve encountered disbelief and even threats from followers. So when Reed, a U.Ok. filmmaker who's extra accustomed to protecting battle and terrorism, approached them individually in 2017 about telling their story via a documentary, they have been understandably reticent, however determined to satisfy with him out of curiosity.
“I used to be involved about someone simply sensationalizing the story,” Safechuck instructed The Associated Press the day after that first screening, with Reed and Robson at his aspect. “Is this particular person out to only put collectively a bit for individuals to observe as a result of it’s Michael? Or is it someone who's going to inform the story of survivors and abuse and what that’s like?”
Robson, a famous choreographer who has labored with the likes of Britney Spears and ’N Sync, had extra expertise with the media and was particularly cautious, however agreed to a lunch. “I felt fairly snug fairly rapidly that he was a person of integrity,” Robson mentioned.
Reed didn’t have an agenda or a plan. He was simply there to pay attention and doc. So they agreed. Robson was interviewed throughout three days, and Safechuck for 2.
“I needed to maintain a totally open thoughts,” Reed mentioned. “In the tip, there isn't any video of Michael Jackson abusing Wade and James. There is not any cache of images. So what you’re doing is listening to the particular person and making a judgment about whether or not there may be any reality or not.”
The movie particulars how Robson, Safechuck and their households got here to know and belief Jackson on the top of his fame within the 1980s and early 1990s, the alleged abuse, which Robson says began at age 7 and Safechuck says started at age 10, and the trauma that emerged as adults after they each began to know what occurred to them. Both of their moms are additionally interviewed, as are their wives and two of Robson’s siblings.
Reed discovered he didn’t must ask many questions, however he did give them some recommendation: Don’t supply commentary or attempt to course of in actual time, simply say what occurred. It was cathartic for Robson.
“I had already come up towards a lot pushback and adversity in relation to telling the reality and attempting to inform the reality that it had turn out to be instinctual to me and ordinary to me to continuously really feel like I've to elucidate myself and clarify the story and clarify the conflicting emotions. Dan giving us that route to not try this ended up being a particularly highly effective expertise for me. It enabled me to be that rather more current within the telling of the story, which ended up being so therapeutic,” Robson mentioned. “Just going via the interview course of was a particularly therapeutic expertise.”
That wasn’t the case for Safechuck, nevertheless. “Yeah, no,” Safechuck mentioned with a hesitant snort. “I don’t suppose it was as therapeutic for me. It was robust.”
But each are glad that their tales are going to be out quickly, despite the fact that the pushback is just getting stronger from followers and the Michael Jackson’s property. The property has vehemently denounced the documentary, attacking the credibility of Robson and Safechuck, in addition to the filmmaker for not together with different voices who knew Jackson.
“It’s the story of those two households and never of all the opposite individuals who have been or weren’t abused by Michael Jackson,” Reed mentioned. “How is interviewing an individual who was mates with Jackson who noticed nothing going to assist me inform the story? The indisputable fact that Jackson for a lot of hours within the day was not abusing kids doesn’t imply that for a number of hours a day he wasn’t.”
The property has mentioned Robson sought work on a Jackson-themed Cirque du Soleil present and raised the molestation allegations solely after he wasn’t employed.
“It’s simply utterly inaccurate,” Robson mentioned. “I used to be employed thrice for various iterations of that Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil present, to choreograph it. I used to be by no means denied a job. I eliminated myself from the undertaking thrice due to the nervous breakdowns that I used to be going via.”
Robson mentioned the nervous breakdowns led him to talk to his therapist for the primary time in regards to the abuse, and began the journey he’s on now. An iconic determine even in loss of life, Jackson’s cultural resonance stays as highly effective as ever. A stage musical, Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough, is about to open on Broadway in the summertime of 2020 and his songs are nonetheless a fixture on the radio. Neither Safechuck nor Robson has any steering for the way audiences ought to view Jackson or his music after watching.
“That’s for them to resolve,” Safechuck mentioned. For each, it’s about shedding a lightweight on sexual abuse, and never about Jackson’s legacy, though it’s possible the movie will have an effect on that as nicely.
“Michael was a particularly advanced determine, like many individuals are, and there are elements to him which can be good and there are issues he did in his life that have been good. And he was additionally a sick man who sexually abused us and I imagine many others,” Robson mentioned. “It’s simply not black and white. These issues exist on the similar time. Hopefully we are able to all simply open our minds about that.”
Leaving Neverland will air in two components on HBO at eight p.m. japanese on March three and four.