It is not uncommon for spectators to be standing ovations at the Sundance Film Festival, but the solemn response came when two men accused Michael Jackson
Wade Robson, who says Jackson abused him at the age of 7 to 14 years, and James Safechuck appeared as an adult with allegations of abuse following Jackson's death in 2009.
The four-hour film aired in two parts British Channel 4 and HBO this spring show how their lives in the 1980s and early 1990s crossed with Jackson at the height of his fame. Later as adults, when the trauma of his youth began serious ways.
In addition to reports by Robson and Safechuck himself, the film also interviews family members, including the mothers, the boys' wives, and Robson's brother and sister. Jackson's voice is heard in the film, through voicemails he went to Robson and an "interview" that led Safechuck Jackson on board his private plane, and the film also shows some of the many faxes he has sent to Robson.
"We can not change what happened to us and we can not do anything with Michael," Robson said in an interview with the audience. However, he said he hopes that other survivors will feel less isolated and raise awareness of anyone responsible for children.
Safechuck added that they were neither paid to participate in the documentary nor expected to receive it.
Jackson's estate sharply denounced the film on Friday night, calling it "the kind of boulevard assassination Michael Jackson endured in life and now in death." It accused Robson and Safechuck of being "two perjurers," a reference to sworn statements made by Jackson during his lifetime, saying he had not molested them. Robson, a choreographer who has worked with Britney Spears and other top acts, testified Jackson's defense during the trial, which ended in 2005 with the popstar's acquittal for harassment.
"The film takes unconfirmed allegations allegedly made 20 years ago and treats them as a fact," the statement said.
It accused the filmmakers of relying too much on the stories of the two men and ignoring the reports of others who said Jackson had never harmed children.
The Associated Press does not usually identify individuals who claim to be victims of sexual assault unless they publicly perform what Robson and Safechuck have done in various ways.
"Leaving Neverland" has been denounced by Jackson's estate and fans since the project was announced earlier this month. After his announcement, the property in Jackson condemned the house because it had "discredited accusations" rebuilt.
Jackson was acquitted of allegations of allegation in 2005 in a case involving another young man. Robson testified in the process that he had slept many times in Jackson's room, but that Jackson had never bothered him. Safechuck made as a boy similar statements to investigators. Then in 2013 Robson filed a lawsuit claiming that stress and trauma had forced him to face the truth that he was being sexually abused by Jackson. Safechuck filed a similar lawsuit the following year. Both were rejected for technical reasons, and one judge did not assess the merits of the allegations.