Much has been written, said, and filmed about the life of controversial pop star Michael Jackson. When Jackson died in 2009, many people thought that would be the end of his story. However, no less than three documentaries have been produced about the singer’s life since 2019.
“Leaving Neverland,” a British-American documentary film directed and produced by Dan Reed, made headlines when it debuted on HBO in 2019. The documentary centers on accusations of childhood sexual abuse by Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Both men had been friends with Jackson as children and previously defended him against allegations made against the singer in the early 90’s and 2000’s. The documentary was met with critical acclaim, but mixed reactions from viewers. While the film touched off a storm of media backlash, it also lead to an increase in the singer’s posthumous sales. The Jackson estate has called the film, “tabloid character assassination.” The Jackson estate has since sued HBO for breaching a non-disparagement clause in a 1992 contract. Jackson’s long-time attorney, John Branca, seems to believe that if the singer were still alive, he would have successfully brought a defamation suit against Robson and Safechuck.
“Chase the Truth”
“Chase the Truth” was released on the Amazon Prime streaming service as a response to the accusations in “Finding Neverland.” The documentary presents an investigative look at the legal battles faced by Jackson. Several of Jackson’s friends, former staff, and researchers appear in the film to dispute allegations of sexual abuse. Former bodyguard Matt Fiddes and actor Mark Lester make allegations claiming that Robson and Safechuck were motivated by financial gain to fabricate their abuse allegations. However, Reed has defended his work, stating that he finds it “extraordinary” that Jackson’s associates admit he slept with young boys in his bed night after night, but still think nothing inappropriate happened. Reed added that he finds it difficult to believe that Robson and Safechuck were talented enough actors to pull off the believable interviews in his documentary if the accusations were not true.
“The Real Michael Jackson”
“The Real Michael Jackson,” produced by journalist Jacques Peretti was released on BBC2 in 2020. The film features a collection of archive clips and interviews. Much of the film focuses on Jackson’s changing relationship with the media.
These three documentaries present different and sometimes opposing views of the late pop icon. Perhaps undecided fans will find value in comparing and contrasting the different perspectives.