Oprah Winfrey steps down as executive producer from Russell Simmons #MeToo documentary
“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.”
The controversial documentary is still set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month despite Winfrey’s announcement, according to a statement from the filmmakers.
“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,” Dick and Ziering said in a statement. “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 of 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. The 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 power power.”
And Time’s Up president and CEO Tina Tchen released a statement after Winfrey’s announcement.
“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.”
According to the official synopsis, the documentary is about “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.” And while Apple TV+ didn’t name the subject of the documentary, the official description released by Sundance revealed it to be Drew Dixon, who previously worked for Simmons and accused him of sexual misconduct and rape in a 2017 interview with the New York Times. Simmons has denied all of the allegations.