Oprah backs out of Russel Simmons accuser documentary over 'creative differences', pulls it from Apple TV+

Oprah backs out of Russel Simmons accuser documentary over 'creative differences', pulls it from Apple TV+
Oprah Winfrey (Getty Images)

Oprah Winfrey is stepping away from an untitled documentary that focuses on music producer Drew Dixon's allegations against Russel Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings. The documentary is set to premiere at Sundance Film Festival two weeks from now. The film was also poised to release on Apple TV+.

When the project from filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, then to be executive produced by Winfrey was announced, the tagline stated, "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."

Since then, rumors abounded as to who the subject maybe when the official Sundance description confirmed it as Dixon. Dixon and three other women accused Simmons of sexual harassment in 2017 while working at Def Jam Recordings.


Winfrey said in her statement, "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+. 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."

According to Winfrey's statement, she believes more work needs to be done on the film to "illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured." She said that she and the filmmakers "are not aligned in that creative vision."

Russel Simmons attends The Weinstein Company & Netflix's 2014 Golden Globes After Party presented by Bombardier, FIJI Water, Lexus, Laura Mercier, Marie Claire, and Yucaipa Films at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 12, 2014, in Beverly Hills, California (Getty Images)

She continued, "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.”


Ziering and Dick have responded in a statement that they are disappointed Winfrey will no longer be associated with the project, however, they added they 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,” they said.

Ziering and Dick are previous Oscar nominees for explosive docs like 'The Invisible War' and 'The Hunting Ground'. 'The Invisible War' premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and explored the life after for rape survivors in the U.S. military.

Time's Up Foundation president and CEO Tina Tchen also responded to Winfrey's announcement, stating, "TIME’S UP is in full support of the survivors who have spoken out about Russell Simmons."


The statement added, "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."

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 Oprah Winfrey backs out Russel Simmons def jam metoo accuser documentary pulls from Apple tv plus