There was no strike by protesters at the Egyptian theater in Park City, Utah early Friday morning, despite the news reports that the Sundance Film Festival was told to prepare for a mass interruption on the main street. But there were police officers who patrolled the area with bomb bombs, three times the usual security of a typical screening and, according to director John Cooper, "health care professionals in the foyer" in case someone worries about the material they need to talk to someone right away.
The warning for the packed house is justified: Leaving Neverland, Dan Reid's two-part, four-hour documentary, focusing on two men who claim Michael Jackson has abused them as children, begins with a disclaimer of "graphic" descriptions of sexual acts involving minors. And after hearing these topics telling in terrifying detail what they say is happening in various hotels, houses and Neverland's ranch, it's hard not to feel that you've had a post-traumatic stress disorder. During a 10-minute pause, audience members seemed slightly dizzy. Towards the end of the screen, the crowd seemed totally shaken.
The focus is mainly on intensive camera interviews conducted with Wade Robson and James Seifchuk – with additional testimony from family members and spouses – Neverland begins with the two men who remember their first encounters with the king of pope. For Robson, an Australian kid who fell in love with the singer after his mother Joy brought home "Creation-on" ThrillerVideo recording, listening to Jackson's music for the first time led to the artist's amazing motion; after receiving the first Jackson Dance awards at a mall, he won the chance to meet with a man at a Brisbane concert venue. Eventually he was taken out on stage to perform his crowd moves and spent some time with the pop star at his hotel before Jackson left. If you're ever in America, Jackson tells Robson's family, look at me. This will eventually lead to an invitation by Joy, Wade and his sister to spend some time at the ranch. At that time, the child had picked up her hair and had prepared to wear Jackson's garments. He was seven years old.
As for Safechuck, a Pepsi ad in which he sneaks into Jackson's dressing room, trying the singer's sunglasses while the guy appeared – brought him into the singer's orbit. Unlike Robson, he was not a super-fan; like Robson, he was immediately in love with the pop superstar, paying attention to him and making him feel "important." Jackson also made friends with the family, often having dinner and sleeping at the Safechuck house in Simi Valley, California. He flies his family to Hawaii during a Pepsi convention and invites the boy to sleep in his hotel room. During the flight back, you can hear the singer who flatters James to an unusual degree. Jackson invites the family to become the property of Neverland and finally convinces Safechucks to let James stay alone with the singer. He was 10 years old.
Neverland continues to cut between these two stories as men begin to remember how the singer claims to initiate physical contact during "sleeping" and "escalating" things from there. Stories suggest a similar pattern of childhood games, followed by claims of courting, mutual masturbation, further sexual advances, and long Jackson lectures on how you can not really trust your parents, and you definitely can not trust women. Gifts, trips and other high-life privileges are spilled by family members, but both boys' mothers remember how they were consistently separated from their sons when a chance arises. Safechuck recalls that Neverland's ranch was created with a series of hidden bedrooms and secret rooms where these alleged sexual acts can be held without people knowing. Robson, whom Jackson calls "Little," describes the "secret wedding" between the two.
Both men recall that, according to Robson, "in the context of what's going on, it all seemed normal"; how they are told that this is the way you show someone you love; how they could never tell anyone because both they and Jackson would be thrown into jail; and how everyone became jealous when the other boys replaced them as objects of affection.
The doctor's second half begins with the 1993 lawsuit against Jackson from 13-year-old Jordan Chendler who claimed the singer had been abused when staying at the ranch, and why both Farouhak and Robson felt compelled to testify. on his behalf. At a time when further allegations triggered a criminal trial, Safechuck told his mother that Jackson was "not a good person," and asked them to refrain from supporting the defense.
But Robson did it; one of Neverlandthe most painful sections are the successful choreographer and N Sync / Britney Spears associate, worried that his career may be tarnished, Michael's children will never again be able to see their father and that he needs Jackson's protection – all this despite what he claimed to have happened to him. After Jackson's death in 2009, the two men married and became fathers; find that they can not sleep at night and suffer from various symptoms of PTSD. In the end, they start to refer to what has happened to them as an abuse. Things get worse before they get better. (And Robson and Safechuck admit that they initially denied the accusations because they said it was necessary to divide the alleged misuse.)
By the time the credits were overturned, the energy in the room was revolving somewhere between the discontent with what we had just seen and the feeling that a turning point on how these accusations played in Jackson's legacy was reached. By offering these people a forum, this doctor has chosen a clear country. Yet the depth with which she describes the story of the accusations and the way she personalizes them to an astonishing degree is hard to shake off. This does not reject what these people say, nor does it exclude the fact that recent lawsuits cloudy the waters a little.
But the film shows how sexual abuse leaves psychological scars, how glory can be seductive enough to distort moral compasses (especially with respect to parents), and how complex it can be when you love someone who can hurt you. This is also a portrait of a person who is a lot to many people and how this image may not be synchronized with what some people want to believe.
And this is a portrait of courage, as evidenced by the fact that when Reid brought Robson and Seifchuk to the scene after the movie, the three men received long-awaited ovations. Both say that "what happened happened" and that they can no longer face Jackson or close. They both say they are still being healed, and both have said they want to do so, so if someone else deals with the consequences of abuse, they can also go ahead. (One of the members of the audience acknowledged their own violence as a child and thanked them for the film, another mentioned that as a lawyer dealing with many cases of sexual violence this could help to change the law on such crimes.)
When people went out on Main Street shortly before 13:00, greeted by a few people who had multiple signs of "Michael – Innocent," it was hard not to feel different about the person at the center of the movie. It was hard not to feel that the bomb had been dropped.