Over the past several months, there have been a slew of documentaries and true-crime style movies that have attempted to look at high-profile figures and cases in a new light. There's Ryan Murphy's FX anthology American Crime Story, which has so far explored the trial of O.J. Simpson and the murder of Gianni Versace. There's Conversations With a Killer, the eerie Ted Bundy documentary featuring actual footage of interviews with the infamous serial killer. Even the longtime punchline of the Lorena Bobbitt case got a new look with Lorena, which dug into the context surrounding the crime and the media attention around it. The latest entry into this genre is Leaving Neverland, a documentary focused on a pair of men who say they were abused as boys while in Michael Jackson's inner circle.
The first part of the documentary will debut on HBO at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 3; the second half will air the following night, also at 8 p.m. Like most of HBO's programming, the documentary will also be available for same-day streaming on a computer or mobile device if you're a customer of HBO Go, HBO Now, or HBO On Demand. Oprah Winfrey Presents: After Neverland, a special hosted by Winfrey, will air on HBO and OWN directly following the premiere of the second part, at 10 p.m. on Monday, March 4.
Although HBO's airing will be the first time the general public is able to watch the documentary, it has already been seen by film festival audiences and film critics. Leaving Neverland made its first appearance at January's Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25. The Park City, Utah, festival is a popular place for films to test the waters, and the buzz out of this festival is often a precursor of what's to come when the movies reach wide release.
In the case of Leaving Neverland, the film was met with shock and intense emotions, even from the professional critics in the audience. The Daily Beast's critic Kevin Fallon tweeted from the break at the halfway point, "On a 10-min break halfway through Sundance's 4-hour Michael Jackson child sex abuse documentary. Whatever you thought you knew or were aware of, the content of this is more disturbing than you could imagine. And again, we're only halfway through." Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times critic Amy Kaufman noted the "incredibly emotional reaction from the audience."
Because of the controversial and emotional nature of the film, its Sundance debut was also marked by the presence of a few other personnel that might not be expected at a film festival. Variety's Matt Donnelly reported from the festival, "#Sundance has provided health care professionals in the theater for audience members potentially upset by #LeavingNeverland . . . They are in the wings ready with counsel." Donnelly also tweeted out a picture of a few Park City police officers outside the theater where the documentary debuted.
As noted by attendees at Sundance, the film is so long, it required an intermission when it premiered at the festival. This is also why HBO is airing it in two parts on two separate nights. Reportedly, the documentary runs around four hours, split into two halves of around two hours each. It's an intense story that's already gotten lots of attention — you can watch the full trailer above.