MICHAEL JACKSON, whose music remains ubiquitous nearly a decade after his death, is under fresh scrutiny.
The singer’s alleged sexual crimes are being re-examined in a four-hour documentary that screened Friday at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie, Leaving Neverland, was shown under police presence, an unusual circumstance for the festival.
During breaks from the screening, critics suggested that the allegations — based on accounts from Mr. Jackson’s accusers — may be explosive. The documentary is slated to air on HBO later this year.
“It’s so sexually explicit that counselors are in the lobby,” Mara Reinstein, film critic at Us Weekly, said on Twitter.
For the music industry, the documentary brings a fresh test of how to deal with controversial artists. Earlier this month, Sony Corp.’s RCA label scrubbed R. Kelly from its lineup. The R&B singer was also the subject of a high-profile documentary, which included accounts of alleged sex crimes.
In the case of Mr. Jackson, the stakes may be higher. He’s one of the best-selling artists of all time and remains a staple of streaming services.
The artist’s estate has sought to quash Leaving Neverland, and his official Twitter account slammed HBO for agreeing to air the film. “In 1992, Michael gave HBO their highest-rated special ever,” the tweet read. “Now, to repay him they give a voice to admitted liars.”
The director intentionally avoided interviewing people who spent significant time with Mr. Jackson and could have stated that he treated children with respect, Jim Bates, a spokesman for the estate, said in an e-mailed statement on Saturday. — Bloomberg