HBO is being sued by Michael Jackson’s estate over their new documentary Leaving Neverland. The film premiered at last month’s Sundance Film Festival and created instant controversy among critics and fans of the deceased King of Pop. Clocking in with four hours of extensive detail, the documentary takes an unflinching look at Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse of young boys at his Neverland Ranch in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
After establishing himself as the third-best selling music artist of all time, behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley, Jackson’s reputation and career took a severe downward turn when the first of what were to be numerous sexual abuse allegations occurred in 1993. Thirteen-year-old Jordan Chandler claimed that Jackson had sexually abused him and although no charges were filed after a thorough investigation, there were more children claiming abuse at the hands of Jackson a decade later. The two grown men at the center of HBO’s Leaving Neverland - Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck - testified during Jackson’s first child abuse trial, but now claim they lied due to coercion from Jackson.
With HBO’s TV release of the two-part Leaving Neverland, Michael Jackson’s estate has now made moves to sue the network for $100 million. According to The Guardian, the lawsuit comes as a result of a 1992 non-disparagement clause that Jackson’s estate claims HBO is in breach of. The clause came about after HBO aired Michael Jackson Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour back in 1992. By agreeing to the legal document, the Jackson estate asserts that HBO also agreed not to disparage Jackson in any future works.
The Jackson estate has produced a 53-page document outlining their demands and claims, insisting that HBO’s documentary is “a one-sided marathon of unvetted propaganda to shamelessly exploit an innocent man no longer here to defend himself." For their part, HBO refuses to be dissuaded by legal pressure. A statement from the network insisted that audiences must be left to make up their own minds regarding Jackson’s past, saying:
"Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of Leaving Neverland, the two-part documentary, on March 3rd and 4th. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves."
Regarding the abuse claims put forth by Robson and Safechuck, the shocking extent to which their cases are formed are perhaps only two of many that the public is aware of. Leaving Neverland’s director Dan Reed has hinted that he would like to make a follow-up film in order to better focus on the other cases that he believes are out there.
For fans of Michael Jackson, the accounts and rumors of the pop star’s questionable history with young boys has always been troubling, and the settlements that occurred over the years have done little to quell these fears. Jackson’s death in 2009 allowed for perspective on a career that was truly spectacular, and for some time overshadowed the nasty tales about what was happening behind closed doors. Now, with HBO’s tell-all exposé front and center, and with the Jackson estate eager to not have the public hear what Robson and Safechuck have to say, Leaving Neverland could very well be the account that reveals who Jackson really was.
Leaving Neverland will be released in two parts on March 3 and March 4 on HBO.
Source: The Guardian