When people talk about Michael Jackson, the conversation usually falls into one of two camps. The first see Michael Jackson as the pop superstar who moonwalked across the stage and sold millions of records. To others, he’s the celebrity whose name became synonymous with the accusations and legal proceedings that would follow most of his later career. On August 13th of 1993, the LAPD opened the first investigation against Michael Jackson for allegations of molesting 13-year old Jordan Chandler. Square One seeks to highlight new evidence and testimony of the first investigation and shed some light on the allegations against the “King of Pop.”
Square One opens by outlining the details of the Jordan Chandler case and establishes a timeline of the events that eventually led to the media storm that followed. Director and co-writer Danny Wu also takes tremendous strides in establishing the credibility of his interviewees. Throughout the film, the witnesses and experts state how they knew Michael Jackson or Jordan Chandler. The accomplishments of investigative journalist Charles Thompson are shown in a credits-style scroll as they are so expansive. By establishing this validity early on, Wu paints the picture that Evan Chandler, the father of alleged victim Jordan Chandler, as a conspirator against Jackson.
“…seeks to highlight new evidence and testimony of the first investigation…”
As the documentary progresses, several experts and people close to Jackson (at the time) fill in the gaps in Evan Chandler’s story of molestation on Jackson’s part, often showing the inconsistencies and lack of context to much his claims. These inconsistencies are expanded on by stating the opportunist nature of many others who came forward after Chandler. Wu handles this flow of information using animated segments depicting the events discussed and cutting to footage of the news sources themselves. Through the use of first-hand sources and secondary evidence, Wu builds the case that Michael Jackson does not match the profile of a child molester but could not have committed these acts.
The movie concludes as a strong rebuttal to the likes of Leaving Neverland or Living with Michael Jackson as it seeks to dispel the claims discussed in previous documentaries. The film closes stating, “Every allegation is built on the ’93 investigation. If that one is false, and I do believe it is false, the rest crumble.” Wu paces the documentary almost like an A24 film – pulsing music to build tension, classical music accompanying the interviews, even down to the aerial shots of the city and font to show the years. The vibe of tension and release creates a mood much closer to something like The Lobster than a typical celebrity documentary.
I found this film very insightful, opening new perspectives on the entire legacy of Michael Jackson. Ultimately, it is up to the viewer to decide if Square One creates reasonable doubt and the validity of the evidence and testimony. During some stretches of Wu reading the evidence himself or showing clips of articles for the viewer to peruse, the film loses its momentum. But overall, the film lends voice to those who believe in Jackson’s innocence. If you are a fan of fast-paced documentaries such as The Imposter or are wishing to see the other side of the Chandler case, this film will open new perspectives and leave you wanting to investigate on your own.
"…a strong rebuttal to the likes of Leaving Neverland or Living with Michael Jackson..."