Leaving Neverland officially has a UK TV release date, with the Sundance documentary set to premiere on Channel 4 this March.
The Michael Jackson film, which is directed by Dan Reed, premiered in Utah last month, and sparked a wave of controversy and heated debate. As one of the world’s most celebrated icons, allegations of sexual abuse by Jackson involving young boys were hard to believe in 1993. Reed’s film unpicks the accusations in detail.
In separate but parallel stories that echo one another, it chronicles claims by two boys, who were each befriended by Jackson and allege that he abused them. Through interviews with the now-adult men and their families, Leaving Neverland builds a portrait of alleged exploitation and deception, documenting the power of celebrity that allowed a revered figure to enter the lives of starstruck children and their parents.
The four-hour documentary was commissioned by HBO and Channel 4, and the cable network has seen itself the subject of complaints from Michael Jackson’s estate.
“Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death,” said the estate in a statement. “The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact.”
“We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse. This film, however, does those victims a disservice,” added the statement.
HBO’s President, though, has said that even with a 10-page letter sent to the broadcaster by Jackson’s estate, he still plans to broadcast the documentary.
“All I would ask is that anybody writing or thinking about it would watch it and reserve judgment until they see it,” he told the press.
Now, the cable giant has confirmed that it will debut the documentary in March. UK audiences won’t have to wait to see the series for themselves, with Channel 4 set to broadcast the two-part programme on Wednesday 6th and Thursday 7th March at 9pm.
Dan Reed has said in a statement: “If there’s anything we’ve learned during this time in our history, it’s that sexual abuse is complicated, and survivors’ voices need to be listened to. It took great courage for these two men to tell their stories and I have no question about their validity. I believe anyone who watches this film will see and feel the emotional toll on the men and their families and will appreciate the strength it takes to confront long-held secrets.”
Channel 4 Specialist Factual commissioner Tom Porter also told Deadline: “Dan Reed has succeeded in making an extraordinarily compelling, yet moving film about two men whose lives were changed forever by one of the most famous men who ever lived. Channel 4 is immensely proud to have commissioned this film and created the opportunity for James’ and Wade’s experiences to be so sensitively told.”
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article or Leaving Neverland, or if you need assistance or support, you can visit The Survivor’s Trust, or National Domestic Violence Helpline.
Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute