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 064 – Vincent Paterson Special

Choreographer Vincent Patterson was at Michael Jackson’s side for many of the key moments which helped cement his status as an entertainment legend, first working with Michael as an assistant choreographer and lead dancer on the pioneering Beat It and Thriller music video shoots. When it came time to devise the videos for Michael’s next album, Bad, Vincent was brought back into the fold, working on the short films for The Way You Make Me Feel, Speed Demon, Dirty Diana and Smooth Criminal.

But it wasn’t just short films he collaborated on with Michael. He also helped shape some of the most historic live performances of Michael’s career, from directing the Bad World Tour to helping to choreograph Michael’s 1988 Grammy Awards performance.

Vincent’s association with Michael continued throughout the 1990s. He choreographed for the Black or White music video and Michael’s MTV 10th anniversary performance, helped devise Michael’s groundbreaking Superbowl half-time show and directed the Blood on the Dance Floor music video.

Today he joins Jamon and Q to discuss Michael Jackson as both an artist and a man, explaining their collaborative working process and telling the stories behind some of pop culture’s most historic moments. He also discusses his involvement in the documentary, The Man Behind the Throne, which is the focus of his work with Michael Jackson, Madonna and other celebrities.

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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.comKeep Michaeling!

Thanks to listener Cody Covington, we now have a full transcript available for this episode. Our deepest thanks and gratitude, Cody.

Episode 036 – The Other Bernie Sanders

Episode 036 - The Other Bernie Sanders Show Art

Episode 036 of The MJCast is dedicated to Scott Devlin who recently passed away after a brave battle with cancer. We hope you are at peace now, Scott. Our thoughts are with your family. Michael-on forever, our MJ brother…

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Ale and her friend Marisa with Michael Jackson collaborators Brad Buxer, Michael Prince, Brian Vibberts and Brad Sundberg at the recent MJU experience.

Jamon and Q are joined by Mexican mega-fan Ale Huerta to cover all the latest MJ news. Jamon, Q & Ale kick things off by talking about The MJCast’s recent interview with The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, Sean Lennon’s bizarre new song  which references Michael Jackson’s relationship with Bubbles the chimp and Janet Jackson’s new photoshoot for Emirates Woman. Following this, the group discusses Susan Fast’s book Michael Jackson’s Dangerous (33 1/3) winning a major literary award, the new Omer Bhatti and Prince Jackson music video for Automatic and new music by Taryll Jackson of 3T. Next, Sony Music Japan’s re-release of Michael Jackson and The Jackson’s music catalogue on Blu-Spec CD 2, the Cascio family are back at it again with unreleased MJ music being auctioned off and blockbuster developments in the case that Eddie Cascio is named in. The group also discuss a range of new seminars and conventions coming featuring Michael Jackson collaborators such as LaVelle Smith Jr., Bruce Swedien and Vincent Patterson before moving into talking about a range of new photo, music and video leaks featuring Michael Jackson. The major discussion topic for this week is all around Ale’s recent trip to Brad Sundberg‘s MJU seminars, Michael’s final resting place at Forrest Lawn and Neverland Valley Ranch.

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  • Ale’s recent trip to Brad Sundberg‘s MJU experience, Michael’s final resting place at Forrest Lawn and Neverland Valley Ranch. You can also see video from the trip here and here.

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Mary Elizabeth Frye Poem

Episode 024 – They’ve Got Chalk to Sell

Episode 024 - They've Got Chalk to Sell YouTube ArtOn this premiere episode of The MJCast’s second season, we kick off 2016 with plenty of news and discussion on Michael Jackson and the Jackson family. Jamon and Q are joined by The MJCast’s regular guest and legal expert Charles Thomson and newcomer to the show Andy Healy, author of the incredible MJ101 series. Andy is a long time MJ fan, having written a number of eBooks on Michael’s audio and visual art. These are must haves for any fan, budding or of vintage…and did we mention that they’re free?! In this episode, Andy tells us about his latest Off The Wall eBook, which then leads us in into a discussion on the latest Michael Jackson release, an Off The Wall reissue which is bundled with the new Spike Lee documentary film, Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off The Wall. In other news, artist Miguel is set to perform on this years Grammy Awards as a tribute to Michael, and to promote the upcoming Off The Wall reissue. In Jacksons news, the brothers wow crowds across Switzerland in the spectacular Art On Ice touring show. The MJCast also delves into the controversy around English actor Joseph Fiennes being cast to play Michael in a fictitious comedy film set around Michael, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando fleeing New York City after the 9/11 tragedy. Next, the boys offer their opinions on the Super Bowl 50 half-time show and Beyonce’s subtle Michael Jackson tribute.

The second half of Episode 024 begins with Charles Thomson giving an expert breakdown on the Serova V Cascio/Porte/Estate/Sony case. Make sure to access this link to read the latest documents in the case exclusively at The MJCast. And will someone call a plumber?! The leaks just won’t stop! The MJCast breaks down the recent Dangerous Tour concert and rehearsal video leaks courtesy of MJ Beats. A new book from the creators of The Dream Lives On podcast and The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, takes a sophisticated, academic approach to understanding Jackson’s art and life, providing insights into his entire body of work from a perspective never before available outside of music/culture journals. Lastly, we delve into our main discussion topic, our thoughts on the new Spike Lee Off the Wall documentary. We look forward to hearing your thoughts also! And in Season Two, our popular Finds of the Week segment returns! Thanks so much for listening to the internet’s premiere podcast on all things Michael Jackson and the Jackson family. We hope you enjoy our first episode of Season Two!

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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.comKeep Michaeling!