The long-awaited documentary about Michael Jackson’s alleged sexual abuse has debuted to critics, and the reaction has been strong, to say the least.
The four-hour documentary, Leaving Neverland, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, highlighting some of the major allegations of sexual abuse against the music legend. Two of the most shocking claims came from James Safechuck and Wade Robson, two men who said they were abused for years by Michael Jackson. Even before the movie was halfway over, many critics were already taking to Twitter to share their disgust at the allegations made against the singer.
“On a 10-min break halfway through Sundance’s 4-hour Michael Jackson child sex abuse documentary,” wrote Kevin Fallon, entertainment reporter with the Daily Beast. “Whatever you thought you knew or were aware of, the content of this is more disturbing than you could imagine. And again, we’re only halfway through.”
Others noted that they did not to expect the movie to have such graphic descriptions of Jackson’s alleged abuse, all spread out over the four hour running time.
The premiere of Leaving Neverland was so raw that some audience members were overcome with emotion, People magazine reported. One critic noted that an audience member opened up about being molested as a child and praised the bravery from Safechuck and Robson to come forward with their stories. At the conclusion of the documentary, audience members gave a standing ovation.
The relationships were portrayed as complicated. Robson, who worked as a choreographer to *NSYNC and Britney Spears, said that Jackson was a big help in launching his career, but also said there was a darker side to the singer.
“He also sexually abused me for seven years,” Robson claimed, via the New York Post.
Jackson was dogged by allegations of child sexual abuse for years, but was acquitted in a 2005 criminal trial.
The documentary premieres just weeks after the debut of the docu-series, Surviving R. Kelly, which explored the decades of sexual impropriety allegations against the R&B singer. That led to a sharp backlash against R. Kelly from fellow musicians and executives, leading Sony Music to drop the singer from its label.
But Leaving Neverland was also met with a sharp backlash both from the singer’s fans and his family. Taj Jackson, Michael’s nephew, slammed Robson and Safechuck and claimed that they were “acting” in the documentary. He also started a GoFundMe page to bankroll a new documentary that exposes the claims against the singer.