Oprah Winfrey will no longer executive produce an upcoming documentary about a woman who accused music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct, and the film will no longer appear on Apple TV+, Winfrey told TheWrap in a statement.
The untitled film from Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering follows music executive Drew Dixon and how her life changed after she accused Simmons of rape and entered the #MeToo movement. The Def Jam Records co-founder has denied the accusations.
Dick and Ziering said in a statement:
“Revealing hard truths is never easy, and the women in our documentary are all showing extraordinary strength and courage by raising their voices to address sexual abuse in the music industry. While we are disappointed that Oprah Winfrey is no longer an Executive Producer on the project, we are gratified that Winfrey has unequivocally said she believes and supports the survivors in the film.
The #MeToo experiences of Black women deserve to be heard, especially against powerful men, so we will continue with our plans to bring the film to The Sundance Film Festival. This film, more than two years in the making, will be our eighth film to premiere at Sundance.
The film is a beacon of hope for voices that have long been suppressed, and an inspiration for anyone wanting to regain their personal power.”
The film is meant to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, but Winfrey felt the film was not ready to be screened at the festival and left the project.
“I have decided that I will no longer be executive producer on ‘The Untitled Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Documentary’ and it will not air on Apple TV+,” Winfrey said in a statement. “First and foremost, I want it to be known that I unequivocally believe and support the women. Their stories deserve to be told and heard. In my opinion, there is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured and it has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in that creative vision.
“Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are talented filmmakers. I have great respect for their mission but given the filmmakers’ desire to premiere the film at the Sundance Film Festival before I believe it is complete, I feel it’s best to step aside. I will be working with Time’s Up to support the victims and those impacted by abuse and sexual harassment,” Winfrey continued.
Dick and Ziering are the filmmakers behind “The Invisible War” and “The Hunting Ground,” which deal with the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the U.S. military and the institutional cover-up of rape on college campuses, respectively. Their latest documentary involving Dixon and Simmons was meant to be produced by Winfrey and Impact Partners and would have premiered on Apple TV+ in 2020. The project was announced in December, but the official logline from Apple did not identify the film’s subject, only that it involved a “brilliant former music executive.”
However, when the film was announced as part of the Sundance lineup, the full logline revealed that it followed Dixon and her accusations against Simmons.
Simmons was Dixon’s boss at Def Jam Recordings while she was an executive at the music label. Dixon says she was raped by Simmons in his apartment in 1995 and quit the company shortly after.
THR first reported the news of Winfrey’s departure.