Oprah Winfrey has exited her role as executive producer on an upcoming documentary that centered on the allegations of sexual assault against music mogul Russell Simmons.
The film, which was set to debut at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, was produced under Winfrey’s deal with Apple TV+; as a result of Winfrey’s departure, the streaming service will no longer distribute the documentary.
“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,” Winfrey said in a statement (via New York Times). “I will be working with Time’s Up to support the victims and those impacted by abuse and sexual harassment.”
Winfrey continued, “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 that she “unequivocally believes and supports the women” who came forward with allegations against Simmons in the documentary.
The Simmons documentary focuses on the allegations against the Def Jam CEO by the label’s onetime A&R Drew Dixon as well as other women who accused Simmons of sexually assaulting them.
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The film was helmed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, who previously directed the documentary The Hunting Ground about sexual assaults on college campus.
“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 in the film.”
The media titan initially announced her involvement in the project in early December 2019. At the time, Simmons was unmentioned as the focus, with filmmakers saying the documentary was about alleged sexual assaults by “a notable figure in the music industry.”
Winfrey’s exit comes a month after Simmons penned an open letter to Oprah on Instagram alongside images of he and Winfrey sitting together during an interview; he re-posted that open letter Saturday following news of Winfrey leaving the project. Simmons also previously contributed to Winfrey’s book The Wisdom of Sundays, a passage that will be excised from future printings following the accusations against Simmons.
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#Repost @unclerush when documentary was announced.. 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.Ihave given you the gift of meditation and the groundbreaking book”THE POWER OF NOW “we bonded to say the least. This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentry. 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. Not 8 or 14 thousand like warren Beatty or Wilt Chamberlain, but still an embarrassing number. So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences. Your doc is focused on 3 hand chosen women. I have refused to get in the mud with any accusers, but let’s acknowledge what i have shared. I have taken and passed nine 3-hour lie detector tests (taken for my daughters), that these stories have been passed on by CNN, NBC, BUZZFEED, NY POST, NY MAG, AND OTHERS. Now that you have reviewed the facts and you SHOULD have learned what I know; that these stories are UNUSABLE and that “hurt people hurt people”. Today I received a call from an old girlfriend from the early 1980s which means that they are using my words/evidence against me and their COMMITMENT/ (all of the claims are 25 to 40 years old) It is impossible to prove what happened 40 years ago, but in my case PROOF EXISTS of what didn’t happen, mostly signed letters from their own parents, siblings, roommates, band members, interns, and in the case of 2 of your 3 accusers,their own words in their books. Shocking how many people have misused this important powerful revolution for relevance and money. … In closing, I am guilty of exploiting, supporting, and making the soundtrack for a grossly unequal society, i have even been unconsciously callous , but i have never been violent or forced myself on anyone. Still I am here to help support a necessary shift in power and consciousness. Let us get to work on uplifting humanity and put this moment and old narrative behind us Love you
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