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Accusers Speak, Fans Protest ‘Leaving Neverland’ Premiere at Sundance Film Festival

Two accusers of the late Michael Jackson drew standing ovations following the premiere of the Leaving Neverland documentary at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday.

Meanwhile, fans protesting outside the theater held signs in support of Jackson.

Accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck took to the stage after the screening of the Dan Reed-directed film, a bombshell that reopens old wounds for the Jackson estate, which continues to vehemently deny allegations that the late superstar sexually abused young boys at his ranch.

Jackson's estate sharply denounced the film Friday night, calling it "the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death,” according to Associated Press reports.

The estate has condemned filmmakers for rehashing “discredited allegations.” It also accused Robson and Safechuck of being "two perjurers," a reference to sworn statements they gave while Jackson was alive, in which they said he had not molested them.

Robson, a choreographer who has worked with Britney Spears and other top acts, testified for Jackson's defense at the 2005 trial that ended with the pop star's acquittal on molestation charges. At that time, Robson said Jackson had never molested him. Safechuck made similar statements to investigators as a boy.

Jackson died in 2009. Robson—who says Jackson abused him from the ages of seven to 14—and Safechuck came forward as adults with their allegations. The 2013 lawsuits Wade Robson and James Safechuck brought against the Jackson estate were dismissed due the expiration of the statute of limitations, reported the Los Angeles Times

"We can't change what happened to us,” Robson said in a question-and-answer session with the audience following the screening. “And we can't do anything about Michael.” He added that he hopes the film makes other survivors feel less isolated and raises awareness of the issue among anyone responsible for children.

The two-part, four-hour film, which will air on HBO in the U.S. and Channel 4 in the U.K. in the spring, chronicles Robson and Safechuck’s experiences with Jackson at the height of his fame, during the 1980s and the early 1990s.

As is common with sexual abuse survivors, the trauma of the men’s childhood experiences reportedly hit them later in life. The film interviews family members, including the boys' mothers, wives and Robson's brother and sister. Jackson's voice is heard in the film, through voicemails he left for Robson and an "interview" Safechuck did with Jackson aboard his private plane, and the film also shows some of the many faxes he sent to Robson, the AP reported.

Safechuck told the Sundance audience he and Robson were not paid to participate in the documentary, nor did they expect to earn anything from it. 

Still, the Jackson estate accused the filmmakers of relying too heavily on the stories of the two men and ignoring the accounts of others who have said Jackson never harmed children.

"The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact," the estate’s statement read.

An AP photo taken Friday shows Jackson fans Brenda Jenkyns and Catherine Van Tighem of Calgary, Alberta among a handful who stood outside the premiere with signs supporting Jackson that read “Seek Truth – Think for Yourself” and “Lies Run Sprints But the Truth Runs Marathons,” cited as a Jackson quote.

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