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Oprah Winfrey Exits Russell Simmons Sex Abuse Doc, Says It Won’t Air on Apple TV+

Winfrey has removed her credit as executive producer ahead of its Sundance premiere, saying her vision doesn't align with the filmmakers'.

Oprah Winfrey poses in the press room with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills, Calif75th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room, Beverly Hills, USA - 07 Jan 2018

Oprah Winfrey

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Update: Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have responded to news of executive producer Oprah Winfrey’s departure from their Apple TV+ documentary centered on Drew Dixon’s accusations of sexual assault against Russell Simmons. See their statement, shared with Deadline, below.

“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.”

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Earlier: Oprah Winfrey has pulled her name as executive producer of directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s yet-to-be-titled Apple TV+ documentary, which centers on a former music executive’s accusations of sexual assault against entrepreneur, record exec, and producer Russell Simmons. The news of Winfrey’s exit was first revealed by The Hollywood Reporter. Winfrey unveiled her departure from the film, which was set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City later this month, via a statement to media outlets. See below.

“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. 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,” Winfrey said.

The high-profile documentary was set to air on Apple TV+ following its Sundance bow, and while IndieWire has reached out to Apple representatives for comment, Winfrey’s statement indicates that the film will no longer drop on the platform as planned.

Winfrey 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.”

While Apple’s logline for the film, which follows, did not identify the accuser, reports dating back to December confirmed that the subject of the documentary is Drew Dixon, who was one of the first women to accuse Simmons publicly of rape. (See an LA Times report here.)

In an Instagram post shared by Simmons in December, the mogul targeted Oprah Winfrey for her endorsement of Dixon’s story.

“Dearest OPRAH, you have been a shining light to my family and my community. Contributing so much to my life that I couldn’t list a fraction of it in this blog,” Simmons said. “This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentry [sic]…I have already admitted to being a playboy more (appropriately titled today ‘womanizer’) sleeping with and putting myself in more compromising situations than almost any man I know. … So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences.”

Dixon’s accusations date back to a 2017 New York Times article in which she alleged he raped her in his apartment. Here is the official logline for the film: “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.”

The news of Winfrey’s exit was first announced by The Hollywood Reporter. IndieWire has reached out to the filmmakers and their representatives, and to Winfrey’s representatives, for comment.

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