Dubai: A small arthouse cinema in Al Quoz focusing on independent films has been inundated with online protests from around the world demanding it cancels a planned screening of the ‘Leaving Neverland’ documentary.
Cinema Akil in AlSerkal Avenue near Times Square off Shaikh Zayed Road is advertising a late April screening of the film, which accuses late musician Michael Jackson of being a peadophile.
In the documentary, which is available on iTunes in the UAE, the late King of Pop is accused of sexual molestation by Wade Robson and James Safechuck - two men who used to visit the star’s California ranch as children in the 1980s and 1990s before Jackson’s death aged 50 in 2009.
The film directed and produced by British filmmaker Dan Reed, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was shown on HBO in two parts last month making it readily available.
However, @MJInnocentUK, an online campaign group run by supporters of Michael Jackson in response to Leaving Neverland, has issued a series of tweets calling on Cinema Akil and the UAE’s National Media Council to block the film’s screening in the UAE.
“A cinema in Dubai is planning to screen Leaving Neverland on 27th April. We need your help in having the event cancelled,” reads one of the tweets before imploring people to email the cinema to complain through various given email addresses. “Let’s work together to stop it #strengthinnumbers,” the tweet adds.
More tweets call on Michael Jackson fans to ‘surge’ the email addresses and twitter handles of the UAE’s National Media Council (NMC) and local newspapers, stating their exceptions to “graphic sexual content relating to child sexual abuse and false accusations against a dead innocent man.
“All media shown [in the UAE] requires a licence issed by them,” tweets added of the National Media Council. “State the extreme graphic sexual nature of the film in relation to peadophile activity and the details of the showing, venue etc.
“That’s the best likelihood to ceasing this propaganda hit piece,” it added.
Gulf News itself was inundated with hundreds of emails from Michael Jackson fans on Monday demanding the screening be stopped, in an identical letter.
In the 12-point letter, fans say they are individually supporting the public campaign against the film’s showing at Cinema Akil later this month, before repeating their exception to depraved sexual content and false accusations.
Gulf News attempted to contact the individual or individuals leading the campaign against the film from the MJ Innocent group, but received no individual email from the group.
The National Media Council told Gulf News they had seen the online campaign, but needed time to ready their response.
“Leaving Neverland is an independent production and does not necessarily reflect the views of the film’s distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment and independent theatre, Cinema Akil. The limited three screenings of Leaving Neverland are part of a larger new pro-discussion programme, which presents films that encourage the exchange of multiple views around a variety of topics. The purpose of the Debatable series is to foster tolerance and encourage the exchange of differing opinions within a safe environment. On the 27th April 2019 following the 2pm screening Cinema Akil will be hosting a panel discussion from across the spectrum of opinions on the film to drive the evening and will include an open forum segment of the discussion for the audience to weigh in. Audiences are encouraged to join the screening and subsequent discussion afterwards to share their views and opinions. Front Row Filmed Entertainment is working closely with the UAE National Media Council to ensure that the appropriate measures and restrictions are observed as per regulation. NMC UAE is the official film regulatory body governing decisions on releases to which we comply.
This film has been sold to over 130 territories worldwide and aired on premium channels such as HBO (US, Latin America and Central Europe), CHANNEL 4 (UK), ProSiebenSat 1 (Germany) Network 10 (Australia) VRT (Belgium), TVNZ (New Zealand), YLE (Finland), Fox Networks Group (Asia) M6 (France), Moviestar+ (Spain), Channel One and Media TV (Russia) among many others.” - Cinema Akil statement.
Screenings will be held on April 24 at 7pm, April 27 at 2pm followed by a panel and audience discussion, and May 1 at 7pm. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org