Film Review: Danny Wu Goes Back to Square One with a Crucial Michael Jackson Allegations Documentary

“Square One” is the Michael Jackson documentary we need now.

It has been a tough year for the worldwide Michael Jackson fan community in the wake of “Leaving Neverland”. With celebrities like Oprah Winfrey hopping onto Dan Reed’s bandwagon, and almost all mainstream media purposely stifling any voice in protest of the film, or even any voice of reason, many fans have been left feeling hopeless. A select few podcasters, YouTubers, and media personalities have created great content countering “Leaving Neverland” but, as of yet, nothing has truly managed to get mainstream, lasting attention. And while the fan community awaits Taj Jackson’s docuseries (you can donate here), that project is still a long ways off.

But the tide may be changing. Just this month, three documentaries have been released in support of Michael Jackson (all of which The MJCast team discuss in #TheMJCastEp108): “Chase the Truth”, “Lies of Leaving Neverland”, and most importantly, in my view, “Square One”, by Danny Wu. After viewing the film at its premiere in Hollywood on September 28, 2019, I believe that Wu’s film has the potential to be a game-changer. It is the film we need in these times.

To give you some background on Danny Wu: Based in Vancouver, Canada, Wu is a YouTuber and up-and-coming filmmaker who grew up as an MJ fan, but who watched “Leaving Neverland” and was convinced of Jackson’s guilt. He decided to create a YouTube video presented as a compelling “Did he or didn’t he?” investigation. However, in the course of Wu’s extensive research, he realized that the facts didn’t add up, and that there could be no way that Michael Jackson was guilty of his accused crimes. Over this time, he interviewed Taj and Brandi Jackson and developed close ties with content creator Liam McEwen (who produced one of the first “Leaving Neverland” rebuttal videos, “Neverland Firsthand”). These relationships would solidify Wu’s support of Jackson’s innocence as well as his dedication to getting out the truth about the allegations. I want to emphasize that Wu “walks the walk”. His efforts are not motivated by money or attention-seeking. In fact, he has donated all of his YouTube revenue from his Jackson-related videos to Taj Jackson’s docuseries, and he self-funded “Square One”. When we interviewed him on The MJCast, he specifically recommended that anyone who wants to donate to him should give their money to Taj Jackson instead.

One might have assumed that Wu would create a film examining the lies in “Leaving Neverland”, since that has been the big focus of this year. But he took a different approach. Wu saw a video of Jackson’s 2005 defense lawyer, Tom Mesereau, in which he spoke about how, if Jordan Chandler had been called to speak in that trial, there would have been a line-up of Chandler’s friends ready to tell the opposite story. Inspired by this idea, Wu decided that he needed to find one of these friends who would be willing to speak publicly. And, in doing so, he could potentially take every allegation “back to square one”, where it all started. By focusing on the 1993 allegations and the Chandler family, he could expose the lies at their root.

With this context in mind, it was with great hope that I attended the film’s premiere on September 28, held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. It was hard to know what to expect for this event. Would the fans turn out? Would the film succeed in its goals? Wonderfully, Danny Wu’s “Square One” premiere was a night to remember, when the fan community came together to support a superb film that I believe will make a real difference. In attendance were all the stars of the film, including Danny Wu, Taj Jackson, Charles Thomson (investigative journalist and Legal Correspondent for The MJCast), Jenny Winings, Geraldine Hughes, and Josephine Zohny, who knew Jordan Chandler in college, had been on the 2005 trial witness list, and whose experiences with Chandler frame the film’s narrative. (More on that later.) The rest of the attendees represented a “who’s who” of the MJ community. It was an exciting, inspiring, and dynamic evening. Guest highlights included Tom Mesereau, Liam McEwan, John Ziegler, Tommy Organ, Thayana Sco Jackson, Edwin Costa (of @edwinsgeneration), filmmaker and podcaster Adam Green, actress Lori Petty, and many more. Fans had come from far and wide, with a few attendees flying from China for the event. There was a great energy, buzz, and a lot of love in the room in anticipation of the screening.

Now, onto the part you’re waiting for: So, how was the film?

“Square One” is a brilliant, professional, and entirely convincing film which will, in my view, speak both to fans and to a mainstream audience. When non-fans, or even casual fans, have asked me this year how to address the questions brought up by “Leaving Neverland”, I have found myself pointing to a lot of different resources, but they are typically overflowing with far more information than the average person is willing to sort through. Enter “Square One”, which is now the film to which I will direct people to understand the 1993 allegations and everything that would come after. The way in which it walks the viewer through a complex set of circumstances is impeccable: easy to absorb, concise, grounded in facts, and it lays the groundwork for precisely why things happened as they did, and how the 1993 allegations would set the stage for the Arvizo trial, Robson, Safechuck, and more. As Josephine Zohny says in the film, “Every allegation is built on the ’93 allegations”. By understanding the chain of events involving the Chandler family, the spider web of misfortunes that plagued Michael Jackson throughout the rest of his life are illuminated.

The structure of the film: First, I want to make clear that there are no surprise bombshells in this film. Serious fans will know this information already. (Though, for casual fans or non-fans, most of the facts presented in this film will be new and, I imagine, revelatory.) Its value is not in making new claims, but in presenting the information in the clearest way imaginable, and in doing so with authority. The film is framed by Zohny’s experiences with Jordan Chandler, with powerful interviews with Taj Jackson, Jenny Winings (who, like Zohny, was on the 2005 trial witness list), and Geraldine Hughes woven throughout the narrative. Caroline Fristedt also appears a few times, if briefly, and some archival audio from “Big Al” Scanlan is included. Danny Wu appears in the film to move the story along at certain points, though it is really Charles Thomson who serves as the film’s primary narrator. (It is worth noting that Thomson did not go into this project realizing that his interview would become so key to the film, and it is a testament to his encyclopedic mastery of this chronology that he can provide such a perfect explanation of the chain of events in two unscripted interviews.) Thomson essentially walks us through every step of the 1993 allegations, with the other interviewees highlighting key moments. The rest of the film is primarily made up of archival audio, video, articles and legal documents, which are all well-presented and well-edited. There is no feeling of a passionate “fan-made defense video” here. The information is serious, journalistic, grounded and credible. I particularly appreciate that the film immediately opens by clarifying a few major questions which seem to eternally emerge up in the Jackson allegation conversation: No child pornography was ever found at Neverland, and nothing was ever discovered during the extended, off-and-on investigation of Jackson by the FBI. The actual chronology of the film walks us through the history of the Chandler family, with a particular focus, of course, on Evan Chandler, and his growing rage. It establishes perfectly the sequence of events leading to Chandler’s extortion of Jackson and why Chandler filed a criminal report, when he clearly had had no intention of alerting authorities regarding the supposed abuse of his child. The film makes very clear, as well, why Jackson settled, and how this settlement never voided the possibility of a criminal trial if there had been any evidence to do so. Wu also addresses and clarifies La Toya Jackson’s support (at the time) of the allegations, Victor Gutierrez and Rodney Allen’s role in the fiasco, and concludes with a short section touching on the Arvizo case. The film’s greatest accomplishment is to put all these puzzle pieces together in a way that any viewer can comprehend. Once set in place, there is a sense of crystal-clear understanding that, as Geraldine Hughes says, “Michael Jackson was the victim of an elaborate extortion scheme which launched the allegations.”

Why Josephine Zohny? Zohny has been unfairly criticized by some people online, saying that she is not a credible source. I completely disagree with this. She, along with Jenny Winings, were on the 2005 trial witness list, and would have been part of that trial if Chandler had been brought into the case. Also, Zohny is not motivated by anything but telling the truth: She gave one statement when she was put on the 2005 witness list, but has never spoken publicly about her experiences otherwise. She has never sold her story, nor has she told conflicting or exaggerated tales. And, while it’s true that she was not a close friend of Chandler’s, just an acquaintance, she had interactions with him on multiple occasions when they were classmates together at NYU, and heard him make statements specifically related to Jackson. According to her, Chandler surrounded himself with MJ memorabilia and fan friends, and, upon the release of Martin Bashir’s “Living with Michael Jackson”, Chandler stated, in front of multiple witnesses, that Jackson was “not capable of the things he was being accused of”. In sum, Zohny has put herself in the spotlight at personal risk (she has had to deal with internet trolls and her professional website being hacked) in order to defend Michael Jackson, and I have absolutely no doubt that viewers will find her story compelling and credible.

The minuses: I have very few critiques of this film, which I hope will be widely shared across the global MJ fan community and far beyond, except to point out that it could have benefited from a bit more editing. Wu created “Square One” in just a couple of months, which is deeply impressive, so I am perfectly willing to excuse any slight imperfections. I personally wish that Charles Thomson’s narration wasn’t via a sometimes-crackly speakerphone, for example, but that is a small complaint. So many long-time fans have spent years exploring the issues around the Jackson allegations, but no one has managed to create anything quite like this, and I encourage every Jackson fan to come together to support this film in whatever way we can.

I’ll conclude with a few words from Tom Mesereau, who was interviewed by John Ziegler immediately after the film premiere:

“It’s a fabulous film. It is high quality. It was carefully investigated. It was condensed in a very professional attempt to find the truth, and it tells the truth. Michael Jackson was not a pedophile. He never should have been put through what he was put through, starting with the case in ’92-’93. And I commend Danny Wu and all of his people for the fabulous job they did, and I can’t wait to hear this circulating through society, because we live in very, very biased, troubled times. Michael Jackson was never a pedophile, never should have been accused as such, and his life was destroyed by greed, by people without integrity, by people without a conscience. This film starts the road back from some of the recent developments, which have been very troubling. [Wu] did a tremendous job in showing the truth.”

Let’s gather as a community to support this film and other quality content being released in Michael Jackson’s defense. This is our moment.

How to watch “Square One”:

October 5, 2019: Worldwide debut of “Square One” on YouTube.

London premiere: UK residents can attend a screening of the film on October 5th in London. Danny Wu will be in attendance, and possibly other stars of the film. Information here.

Learn more:

The MJCast’s interview with Danny Wu.

Danny Wu’s TwitterInstagram and Facebook pages.

Other episodes from The MJCast related to the allegations:

Episode 108 – Back to Square One

Episode 103 – Vindication Day Special with Larry Nimmer

Episode 099 – Leaving Neverland Q&A

Episode 095 – Leaving Neverland Roundtable

Episode 081 – Vindication Day Special with Aphrodite Jones

Episode 058 – Vindication Day Special (Pirates in Neverland: The Michael Jackson Allegations)

Episode 033 – Vindication Day Special with Scott Ross

Article by Elise Capron

Episode 103 – Vindication Day Special with Larry Nimmer

The MJCast present their fifth annual special episode recognising Michael Jackson’s acquittal from false child molestation allegations on June 13th, 2005. On each of these annual episodes, the team brings a very special guest onto the show to discuss their experience with the trial that so deeply affected Jackson’s life. This is a time for reflection, education, and bringing together our community.

In this year’s show, Jamon and Q welcome Emmy-nominated filmmaker Larry Nimmer, who was a key component of the defense team in Jackson’s 2005 criminal trial. When Judge Melville decided against allowing the jury to physically visit Neverland, Nimmer was hired by Jackson to film, document and narrate almost every area of the ranch so that the jury could experience it with as much detail as possible in the courtroom. The extensive documentation Nimmer collected feels even more poignant this year, in the shadow of the film “Leaving Neverland”, when the Ranch has been maliciously and incorrectly depicted as an attraction to lure young boys.

In this chat, the guys discuss Nimmer’s early life and career in film, how he ended up being hired by Jackson and his team, and his thoughts going into the trial. He goes into detail about Neverland itself, working with the staff there, and addresses many of the big misperceptions and myths that have lingered since the mid-2000s. Nimmer also discusses the trial itself, as well as his thoughts on the Arizo family, and reflects on the current accusations made by Robson and Safechuck.

Additional Links

Connect with Us

TheMJCast.com
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
YouTube

If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback on this Michael Jackson podcast episode, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.comKeep Michaeling!

Episode 058 – Vindication Day Special (Pirates in Neverland: The Michael Jackson Allegations)

As far back as he can remember, Ryan was a Michael Jackson fan. He was just five years old when the Dangerous album came out but vividly remembers watching the Black or White music video upon its release in America. In his teenage years he became an active member of the Michael Jackson internet fan community where, in his 20s, he got to know Charles Thomson.

After Michael’s death, Ryan withdrew somewhat from the fan community. Today he lives in Tokyo, where he works for several companies and, in his spare time, hosts the podcast Reason Bound. The show is all about logic and critical thought; what people believe, why they believe it and the importance of being able to recognise good and bad arguments. Each week he and a guest discuss these points in relation to a particular hot topic.

Charles’ life also now revolves around logic and critical thought. Since Michael’s death he has become an award-winning newspaper journalist, investigating issues and weighing evidence on a daily basis, in addition to regularly reporting on criminal trials.

A few months back, Ryan invited his old friend Charles onto Reason Bound. He appeared in episode seven, where they discussed the justice system and the importance of preserving the presumption of innocence. Given their history, the two of them naturally referred to the Michael Jackson trial several times during the show.

August 16, 2004 – MJ attends the pretrial hearings, escorted by LaToya and Janet.

After the recording was finished, Ryan felt there was a lot more to be said about the Michael Jackson case. He invited Charles back onto the show to do something neither of them had ever seen done before – to record a podcast where the two of them would discuss the child abuse allegations leveled at Michael Jackson during the latter half of his career – from their inception in 1993 through to his 2005 trial – within the context of Reason Bound’s usual parameters; looking at what people believe, why they believe it, and the importance of being able to recognise good and bad arguments. They would discuss the evidence in an unemotional way, testing the theories and arguments of bother Michael Jackson’s fans and his detractors.

June 13, 2005 – The Jackson Family leaves the court after the veredict.

Given Charles’ continuing work with The MJCast, Jamon and Q were given a sneak preview loved the show so much they decided they wanted to air it too. So for the second time in The MJCast’s history we are simulcasting with another show. We are proud to present, for our third annual Vindication Day Special, episode 10 of Reason Bound, titled ‘Pirates in Neverland: The Michael Jackson Allegations’.

The show goes live today on both The MJCast’s channel and Reason Bound’s. We thank Ryan for working with us on this episode and we encourage you to head over to iTunes and check out some more of his thought-provoking episodes.

Links

Connect with Us
TheMJCast.com
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Tumblr.
YouTube

If you have any thoughts, opinions, or feedback on the show, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at themjcast@icloud.com or find the links to our many social networks on www.themjcast.comMichael On!