‘Leaving Neverland’ rebuttal documentary welcomed

By Bi Mengying Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/21 18:08:40

Michael Jackson fans attend a screening of Square One on Sunday in Beijing. Photo: Courtesy of mjjcn.com

Chinese Michael Jackson fans paid tribute to the singer following the screening of Chinese-Canadian Danny Wu's documentary Square One in Beijing on Sunday. 

The film is an investigation into 1993 allegations of sexual abuse against Jackson brought by the family of the alleged victim Jordan Chandler. It uncovers new evidence and information in defense of the singer through interviews with the people closest to the case, such as Jackson's nephew and the legal assistant to the accuser's lawyers in 1993. 

Square One premiered in Hollywood on September 28 and in London on October 5. That same day, it made its global debut on Wu's YouTube channel.  

"In LA, the biggest shock to me was how many people showed up. And you know there were a lot of high-profile people over there. They were Hollywood actors. They were big YouTube stars, Michael Jackson's lawyers, his family… I got a standing ovation in the end which surprised me as well. In London, same thing. People were more reserved, standing ovation at the end, which I didn't expect at all," Wu told the Global Times after the screening and a Q&A session with the audience. 

Feeling connected

With support from China's biggest Jackson fan website, mjjcn.com, the documentary's Chinese-subtitled version was screened in eight cities across China including Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu, with Beijing the last stop. Tickets for the film sold out quickly, as the tour attracted a multitude of the late singer's fans in China. 

"This is one of the most connected fan groups I've ever seen anywhere. Because, not only are they online, but they are also going to meet up in real life having real life interactions, which does not happen very often in the West," said Wu. 

Wu attended screenings in different cities and enjoyed the discussions with audiences, most of whom were Michael Jackson fans. After the screening, one fan said that the film felt like a redemption for the singer as it presents the truth to the public, while a mother said she brought her 11-year-old son with her, hoping he'd learn more about Jackson as well. 

"You can see how connected they feel to Michael Jackson. I realize that this is way beyond music and dance. This is people really connecting to him at a deeper level. I don't think I really understood that until this trip," Wu added. 

Doing some digging

Premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on January 25, Leaving Neverland featured accounts from two former child stars Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who accused the late singer of sexually assaulting them in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In its review, Variety said it "offers devastatingly powerful and convincing testimony that Michael Jackson was guilty of child sexual abuse."

Wu watched Leaving Neverland as well. He said that after noticing what he felt were a lot of inconsistencies in the film, he started doing research on his own. In April, he posted on his YouTube channel his interviews with Taj Jackson, Michael Jackson's nephew, and Brandi Jackson, the pop star's niece in a piece titled Returning to Neverland: Taj and Brandi Jackson Interview. Wu noted that the interviews received quite a bit of attention from Jackson fans, which he thinks helped gain people's trust as an investigator on YouTube. 

In 2005, Jackson was faced with a second child molestation case, which ended up with his acquittal. Wu said that during the trial, he heard that more than one person who knew Chandler testified in court saying that Chandler told them that nothing had ever happened. 

"No one ever confirmed [that people had testified]. But it just became my obsession to find one of these names. And I looked into it for a long time. And I got a name, there was Josephine Zohny," said Wu.

It took Wu some effort to talk Zohny into defending Jackson publicly. After his interview with her, Wu realized that one witness may not be convincing enough so he changed his format and turn his YouTube series into a documentary.  

"In the West, all the online discussions about whether Michael Jackson was guilty or not. All the people who think he was guilty, they always go back to one point. Why did he pay the settlement? Why did he pay a kid 20 million dollars? So that was the root of all the problems… But the 1993 case has never gone to trial. So there are a lot of myths and legends around that case. So I just kept building around it. I kept adding new people in, and people kept dropping out," he added. 

To be continued

Wu and Michael Jackson's Chinese fans believe in the singer's innocence and plan to show their support by promoting Square One.   

The documentary will soon be screened in Amsterdam, and a new version different from the YouTube version will likely be available on Amazon Prime in the US in January 2020. As for China, mjjcn.com is considering collaborating with a domestic video-streaming website to screen the film.  

"My dad used to bring DVDs of Michael Jackson dancing. And he was like 'Yeah, let me show you something impressive.' And we just watched Michael Jackson DVDs all day. So that's like a very big part of my childhood. I feel I owe so much happiness to Michael Jackson for this family time so that it's only right I'm doing this now," said Wu.   

When asked what he'd say to the singer, Wu answered, "I'm trying my best. I'm doing my part. And I hope that can be appreciated and maybe the world one day will see you for who you really are." 

Newspaper headline: ‘Square One’


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