Oprah Winfrey has stepped away and will no longer be an executive producer of the upcoming untitled documentary about music executive Drew Dixon, who accused Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct. The documentary also will not air on Apple TV+, but is still expected to world premiere as scheduled at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
Sundance describes the “Untitled Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering Film” directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, as “A brilliant former hip hop executive grapples with whether to go public about her rape by one of the most powerful men in the music industry. A gripping and profound examination of race, gender, intersectionality, and the toll sexual abuse takes on survivors and on society at large.”
“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 to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are the team behind the Oscar-nominated college campus rape documentary exposé The Hunting Ground and 2012’s The Invisible War. Their most recent film, The Bleeding Edge, follows the fast-growing medical device industry’s corruption and malfeasance, which compelled industry giant Bayer to remove one harmful device from the market, and is catalyzing a worldwide debate about regulation and patient safety.
In an exclusive response to Deadline, filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering said: “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.”
Time’s Up Foundation president and CEO Tina Tchen said in a statement of her own: “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. As 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.”