Oprah Winfrey is reportedly stepping away from a documentary centered around the alleged sexual misconduct of former music executive Russell Simmons.
The Hollywood Reporter received a statement from Winfrey, who until now, had served as an executive producer of the film. She says that her and the filmmakers are no longer “aligned” in their “creative vision” for 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 relayed in the 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.”
She added, "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.”
The primary subject’s name in the doc was left out of Apple’s initial characterization. The logline simply read: “A brilliant former music executive who grapples with whether to go public with her story of assault and abuse by a notable figure in the music industry. The film is a profound examination of race, gender, class and intersectionality, and the toll assaults take on their victims and society at large.”
The official Sundance description, however, confirmed the subject is Drew Dixon, who had alleged instances of misconduct by Simmons in a 2017 interview with the New York Times. The Def Jam Records co-founder had served as Dixon’s boss during her time as an executive at the music label. Dixon alleges the rape occured in Simmons’ apartment in 1995, just before she quit the company.
In response to Winfrey's decision to step down, Time's Up Foundation president and CEO Tina Tchen released her own statement to The Hollywood Reporter, reading: “Time's Up is in full support of the survivors who have spoken out about Russell Simmons. These women are brave. We believe them. We support Oprah Winfrey in maintaining that the victims’ stories deserve to be heard on their own terms. Too often, Black women are silenced, disbelieved, or even vilified when they speak out. On top of that, for years, these women have been attacked by powerful forces surrounding Russell Simmons – illustrating how difficult it is to speak out against powerful men. And how important it is for powerful men to be held accountable for their actions.”
That statement continued, “Oprah made clear in her statement, any decision by her and Apple regarding this documentary does not change the underlying facts. We assert Time's Up's unwavering support for these survivors. We are in awe of their courage and strength. We will continue to fight for them, and we will continue to fight for a future where Black women are truly heard and believed.”
Oprah has previously received criticism for her participation in the documentary, including from Russell Simmons himself. In December, he took to his Instagram account to relay to her that he is innocent of sexual assault and simply a “playboy.” He also thanked her for everything she’s done for his life and career.
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