Michael Jackson in the Leaving Neverland trailer.
Michael Jackson in the Leaving Neverland trailer.

Disturbing look at life inside Neverland

THE newly-released trailer for Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland paints an unnerving picture of life at the reclusive pop icon's former ranch.

The controversial film focuses on the allegations against Jackson by two men, Brisbane-born Wade Robson and James Safechuck.

Both men allege that, having befriended them when they were children, Jackson then secretly sexually abused them.

"Everybody wanted to meet Michael or be with Michael," says one of the subjects in the film's trailer, as they recall their first impressions of Jackson's sprawling theme park-like ranch in remote California, dubbed Neverland.

"We drive in, and forget about all your problems, you were in Neverland. It was a fantasy," says one.

"The days were full of magical childhood adventure experiences: Playing tag, watching movies, eating junk food - anything you could ever want as a child."

Jackson "came across as a loving, caring, kind soul" - and in video footage shown in the trailer, can be seen delivering a birthday greeting direct to accuser Wade Robson in which he tells the young boy "I love you".

The accusers explain the fear they say they lived with about the alleged abuse: "He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives," says one.

The Michael Jackson estate has sent a letter to the UK's Channel 4 warning that the documentary, which is set to air there in early March, violates the network's programming guidelines. The letter written by estate lawyer Howard Weitzman and released Monday to The Associated Press states that Leaving Neverland, set to air in early March, makes no attempt at getting a response to the accusers from Jackson's estate, family, friends or others who have defended his reputation as required by the channel's standards for factual programming and basic journalistic ethics.

The film's director Dan Reed has addressed the criticism from the estate previously, saying in a statement that he intentionally focused on just Robson and Safechuck.

Related story: Macaulay Culkin opens up about friendship with Michael Jackson

 

From left: Wade Robson, from left, director Dan Reed and James Safechuck. Picture: AP
From left: Wade Robson, from left, director Dan Reed and James Safechuck. Picture: AP

 

"Anyone who sees the film will know it is solely about hearing the stories of two specific individuals and their families in their own words, and that is a focus we are very proud of," Reed said.

The three-page document from the estate echoes a longer letter it sent to HBO on Friday calling the allegations from Wade Robson and James Safechuck "disgraceful" and urging investigation of the men's backgrounds. A copy of the HBO letter was included with the Channel 4 letter, and applies just as much to the U.K. station, the letter states.

The two channels co-produced the documentary account of how the two men's lives intersected with Jackson's when they were kids at the height of his fame, and how the trauma of what they say happened in their youth started to emerge in their adult life.

It premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, where Robson and Safechuck got a standing ovation afterwards.

Both had previously told authorities Jackson did not molest them, with Robson testifying as much in Jackson's 2005 trial, in which he was acquitted of molesting another boy. Jackson died in 2009.



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