Michael Jackson documentary avoids the hype
By ERIC LINDBERG — Feb. 10, 2010
Innuendo and gossip long have been synonymous with the public image of Michael Jackson.
Most people planning to watch local filmmaker Larry Nimmer’s “Michael Jackson: The Untold Story of Neverland” during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this week probably are entering the theatre with a preconceived notion of the late pop singer’s life.
But Nimmer is urging viewers of the documentary to keep an open mind and judge the facts for themselves, promising a hype-free look into allegations of child molestation and the subsequent trial in 2005.
“I try to show both sides to it, although I state at the end that I felt all he was guilty of was childlike innocence and naiveté,” the filmmaker said. “He talks about how he encouraged the childlike nature in himself for creative purposes.”
As a specialist in producing legal videos for use in the courtroom, Nimmer earned unprecedented access to Neverland Ranch, Jackson’s estate in the Santa Ynez Valley.
He spent three weeks roaming the premises and two days on the stand narrating the footage.
“I didn’t plan on making a documentary for a while, but I was sitting on that footage and a lot of other footage that the public hadn’t seen,” he said. “It was basically sitting on the shelf, ready to be made.”
Along with interviews with Jackson’s attorney, the jury foreman from the 2005 trial, and fans who flocked to memorial sites after the singer’s death last year, Nimmer also secured footage of the sheriff’s search of Neverland and outtakes from another documentary by Martin Bashir.
The film, narrated by Nimmer, tracks the filmmaker’s perspective throughout the trial. Although he said he entered the process with no sense of Jackson’s innocence or guilt, Nimmer said he emerged with a definite opinion on the matter.
“I certainly came to the conclusion that he wasn’t a child molester, and that the accusers in the 2005 trial were after financial gain,” he said.
Nimmer also focused on the media’s portrayal of the pop singer, particularly the tendency to exaggerate his eccentricities.
“It’s a lesson in how people treat celebrities, how he was harassed and hounded,” he said. “I find it interesting that, with his death, people feel better about him.”
Nonetheless, he stressed that his intent with the documentary is to present information to viewers and allow them to draw their own conclusions.
Beyond the question of Jackson’s guilt or innocence in the 2005 trial, the film also presents a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the singer’s personal life. The outtakes from Bashir’s documentary — filmed between takes by a private videographer — include Jackson discussing how he feels judged by adults and finds more acceptance among young people.