Leaving Neverland, a new documentary about to premiere at Sundance Film Festival, is shining a light on allegations of child molestation by the late Michael Jackson. But Jackson is not the only musician to be the center of attention by documentary filmmakers. Fans of R&B artist R. Kelly are well aware that last month’s Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly has focused intense scrutiny on Kelly and his alleged abusive relationships with underage women. Several news outlets have reported that RCA Records has dropped Kelly in light of these revelations.
Everyone has flaws, and for musicians at the pinnacle of success, those flaws become tragedies waiting to be exposed by the unblinking eye of the camera. Managers and fans wish that documentary filmmakers would stick to promotional content and not uncover the unsavory parts of the story; but that would be seen by critics and victims as a denial of the truth .
I recently watched the 2018 documentary Whitney and was reminded that any honest documentary about any superstar will contain dark and terrible episodes along with the moments of greatness. Whitney Houston’s incredible talent and musical success were clouded by her toxic relationship with Bobby Brown and the drug addiction that took her life.
Today in Park City, Utah, police are on high alert because of anticipated protests by fans of Michael Jackson. The estate of Michael Jackson is also pushing back, claiming that the two accusers who are at the center of the film earlier testified on behalf of Jackson. The estate is calling this film, “yet another lurid production…to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson.”
That may be true, but it may also be true that victims will finally be heard. Perhaps truth will be the ultimate survivor.