Was Michael Jackson trustworthy
"He was a pedophile": An interview with the director of the new Michael Jackson documentary
"Porn and candy," says James Safechuck in the documentary Leaving Neverland and sighs. He remembers his childhood, encounters with Michael Jackson. The four-hour film not only tells his story, but also that of Wade Robson. Robson says Jackson sexually abused him for years.
Actually, the US broadcaster HBO wants to broadcast the documentary in early March. In the meantime, Jackson's estate administrators have filed a lawsuit stating that the film should not be broadcast and that HBO should pay $ 100 million in damages. Because Leaving Neverland accuses the late King of Pop of choosing children as victims who adored him as heroes. He gradually wrapped his parents around his finger with vacation trips, houses and gifts of money. He used psychological manipulation to persuade his victims that they were complicit in their own abuse.
James Safechuck was still a child when he met Michael Jackson while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1988. The two became inseparable, Jackson often spent the night with the Safechuck family. On his "Bad" tour, Jackson had the boy appear as a mini MJ. During this time, the world star presented him richly with jewelry, according to Safechuck - among other things with a diamond ring, which was used at a mock wedding between the two. According to Safechuck, Jackson gave him wine and initiated sexual intercourse with him on a daily basis, at Jackson's Neverland Ranch and touring hotel rooms.
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Today James Safechuck and Wade Robson are in their thirties. Her interviews about the sexual abuse Jackson allegedly committed leave little to the imagination. It is painful and grueling to hear what they say: of bloody underwear, of a Jackson masturbating, of oral penetration by a seven-year-old. But perhaps such explicit language is necessary if one has to fight the memory of one of the most popular stars in world history.
The trustees of Jackson, who has never been convicted in two abuse cases, endeavor to discredit the filmmakers, the alleged victims and the broadcaster HBO. They have published a ten-page letter in which, among other things, they describe Robson as implausible because his father committed suicide.
Before the Trustees' lawsuit was filed, Dan Reed, the director of Leaving Neverland, explains why his film is solid for him and whether we have to stop listening to Michael Jackson's music.
VICE: There are so many books and documentaries out there about Michael Jackson's psyche and the abuse he suffered as a child. Did you deliberately leave Jackson's own inner workings out of the film?
Dan Reed: It's not a movie about Michael Jackson. It's about Wade Robson's and James Safechuck's encounters with him. I never met Jackson and I can't say anything about what made him abuse little boys. I don't want to speculate about that.
Just because you had a tragic childhood, you are not predestined for certain behaviors. I found it fascinating how Wade and James describe Michael Jackson. And because Jackson is so well known, her stories will go around the world. This could educate a great many people about how child sexual abuse works. Most people get it wrong.
Which errors do you come across frequently?
On Twitter, many people ask, "Why did Robson defend Jackson in court? Why didn't he run up to mom and tell her what Jackson did?" Because that's not how sexual abuse works. And the film shows that very clearly. Some people who abuse others can make their victims fall in love with them. Robson says, for example, that his relationship with Jackson was positive all his life. It was very difficult for him to admit that it was bullshit.
Michael Jackson supporters can be very fanatical. Does the film get a lot of headwind?
There are millions and millions of Jackson fans in the world. People who love his music, for whom his songs were the soundtrack to great experiences. But besides these people there is another kind of fan who almost seems like a cult member. These people post malicious things about the movie on social media. Often they repeat statements that Jackson's family and lawyers have made for years. They do badly to Jackson's victims, aggressively and relentlessly. But I don't think you can get away with such tactics so easily in 2019.
Most fans are ordinary people who are shocked to hear how much evidence there is against Jackson. It was the same for me. When I first got into the subject, I wasn't prejudiced against Jackson. I wasn't convinced he was a pedophile; he could have been innocent too. I thought he was a good person who made good music and was apparently kind to children. Unfortunately, it really turned out that he was a sexual offender.
And now you're probably asking me if we should even still hear his music.
I really wanted to ask that.
[Laughs] I don't think there is a need for a hashtag that requires us to boycott their music like we did with R. Kelly. Jackson's music is simply too big and widespread in many parts of the world for that. You can't just snatch that away from society like that. But do you want MJ songs to be played on your children's birthday? I wouldn't want that. But that doesn't mean they need to be banned. It's great music, he was a very talented entertainer. But he was also a pedophile.
In one scene, Wade burns Robson Jackson's sequined glove and "Thriller" jacket - were they really the originals?
I wasn't there when Wade burned these things, but from the footage I'd say they were real.
Interesting - if these clothes were real, they must have been extremely valuable. Jackson's estate administration claims Robson was telling his story for the money.
It may be that these were expensive things, but that he burned them doesn't prove much by itself. I find it more telling that Wade and James didn't get any money for their part in the documentary.
Critics also accuse you of failing to present the other side of Robson's and Safechuck's stories.
We received a lot of criticism, especially from fans, as well as statements Jackson made during his lifetime. At the time, he denied all allegations of abuse. We also let his lawyers have their say in both lawsuits. I would say we are fully showing the position of Michael Jackson and his attorneys.
However, you have not conducted any recent interviews with the other side.
As far as I know, Jackson's position has not changed. You continue to insist on his innocence.
It seems like it was important to you to talk in great detail and explicitly about Jackson's alleged acts of abuse. Why was a simple "He sexually abused me" not enough?
We had to establish that sexual acts happened. For years, Jackson claimed he shared bed with children for completely innocent reasons. If we didn't have these graphic, shocking descriptions, people would imagine that we were talking about hugs that were a little too long and intimate, or that Jackson patted their cheek. We had to make it clear that Jackson was interested in sex, not loving touch.
Do you get the impression that people close to Jackson knew about it or even served him as accomplices?
I did not see any evidence of other people engaging in the sexual acts. But whether there were accomplices and accomplices is a legitimate question to which I have no answer. Jackson's life was managed by his employees around the clock. It's hard to imagine that nobody noticed anything. What did you think Jackson was doing with a boy in his bed every night?
Are Robsons and Safechuck's experiences just the tip of the iceberg?
I am convinced that there are many more victims. We wanted to focus on James and Wade and their families. They all had longstanding contact with Jackson. I am sure that more victims will speak up when the time is right for them. We will see.
Would the film have been made if Jackson were still alive?
That would certainly have been difficult. Even today people are afraid of Jackson's lawyers. When I spoke to people involved in the investigation, many expressed concern that Jackson's people might silence the victims. They employ unscrupulous private investigators and often go to court. The power of the Jackson machine is absolutely terrifying.
How does the #MeToo movement affect how the film is received?
It is definitely a blessing that we have now seen this wave of believing victims of sexual assault. Before, it was easier to silence these people with character assassination campaigns. I think today Jackson would not have gotten away with the things he did in the 90s.
How are Robson and Safechuck doing today? Are you withdrawing from the public eye now that the film is about to premiere?
On the contrary, they are very happy with the film. The Sundance Film Festival premiere was a turning point in her life. There was a standing ovation after the screening. People shouted: "We believe you!" Wade and James had tears in their eyes. I think they were shocked that this was the first time they got confirmation. They were so used to it that you wouldn't believe them and drag them through the mud.
In the USA the first part of Leaving Neverland aired on March 3 on HBO. It is still unclear when and where the film will be available in Germany. This article will be updated with appropriate information.
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