How should we remember Michael Jackson — by his art or by his actions? That debate raged in real time on Sunday night, when HBO premiered the first half of Leaving Neverland, its explosive new documentary about two men who say they were sexually abused by Jackson when they were children. Jackson’s estate didn’t sit still while the documentary aired, however. About 20 minutes into the premiere, the singer’s official Twitter account posed a link to his 1992 concert special, Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour (which, at two hours and 20 minutes, is the same length as the first half of the documentary). The estate is set to release another special, Live at Wembley Stadium, when the second half of Leaving Neverland airs on Monday night.
The Live in Bucharest special in particular has formed the basis of the Jackson estate’s battle against HBO and Leaving Neverland. Two weeks before HBO premiered the documentary, Jackson’s estate filed a lawsuit against the premium cable network, saying that broadcasting Leaving Neverland violated the non-disparagement clause that HBO had signed in order to air Live in Bucharest decades ago. While that legal battle rages, both films are currently available for fans and interested parties — one on HBO, the other on YouTube.
Directed by Dan Reed, Leaving Neverland tells the “separate but parallel” stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who both allege that Jackson sexually molested them when they were young boys. In EW’s review, Kristen Baldwin wrote, “It is incredibly powerful and excruciating to watch.”
The second half of Leaving Neverland debuts Monday night on HBO.