(Dan Whitcomb, Reuters) A small group of Michael Jackson's dedicated fans have started an "awareness" campaign surrounding the upcoming movie "This is It," saying it covers up the grim reality of the dead pop star's final days.
The group represents fans from at least 10 countries who claim the movie, which hits theaters around the world on October 28 and is based on Jackson's rehearsals for a series of London concerts, conceals the "dire state" of his health while enriching its promoters that they hold partly responsible for his death on June 25.
"In the weeks leading up to Michael Jackson's death, while this footage was being shot, people around him knew that he looked like he might have died. Those who stood to make a profit chose to ignore it," the group says on its website, www.this-is-not-it.com.
Jackson was preparing for the concerts at the time of his sudden death, which was ruled a homicide by the Los Angeles County Coroner and attributed to an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol as well as the sedative lorazepam.
Police have focused their investigation into his death on the entertainer's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. So far, no charges have been filed.
Kenny Ortega, the director of "This is It" who also was choreographing the concert rehearsals, told Reuters earlier this week that he saw no signs of drug dependency in Jackson, that the singer was excited to be performing and that the film was not intended to make a profit.
In a separate interview on Thursday, Ortega called the movie a "musical mosaic...that I think will help the fans come to appreciate and understand what Michael was putting into "This Is It", what his dreams were for it, what his goals were for it."
"It is a story of a master of his craft, a great genius in his final theatrical work and creative process," Ortega said.
The concert promoters, AEG Live, did not return calls for comment.
The group is made up largely of longtime Jackson fans, some of whom have spent time with the entertainer over the years and attended nearly every day of his 2005 child molestation trial.
They say they became so concerned about Jackson's health that on June 21, four days before his death, they wrote to him asking him to stop the tour if he was not up to it.
"It is our wish to help people understand where the responsibilities lie, pertaining to Michael Jackson's passing, in the hope that if they choose to watch the film, they will do so with critical eyes," the group said in a written statement.
"In fact, we believe that those around Jackson chose to look the other way when it was evident he was having problems," the fans said.
"We want to celebrate Michael Jackson and his amazing legacy, but we cannot do so until the truth comes out, justice is served and the lies are exposed."
The fans say they will hand out fliers promoting their cause at the premieres next week for "This is It."