A wax figure of Michael Jackson, American singer, stands on display at Madame Tussauds prior to the exhibition’s public opening, in Berlin, Germany. (Photographer: Adam Berry/Bloomberg News)

Michael Jackson Documentary Puts Star Back Under Microscope

(Bloomberg) -- 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.

Michael Jackson Documentary Puts Star Back Under Microscope

During breaks from the screening, critics suggested that the allegations -- based on accounts from 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. Just last week, 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 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 Jackson and could have stated that he treated children with respect, Jim Bates, a spokesman for the estate, said in an emailed statement on Saturday.

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