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Oprah Drops Russell Simmons Accuser Doc From Apple Slate Two Weeks Before Sundance Premiere

Oprah Winfrey is backing away from an untitled documentary from acclaimed filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, two weeks before the film was set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

Winfrey joined the project as an executive producer and set the doc to release as part of her overall deal with Apple TV Plus. She has returned the film to Ziering and Kirby, who will retain their premiere slot and seek new distribution. A Sundance Film Festival spokesperson did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

“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 in a statement.

“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,” she concluded.

The film, shrouded in secrecy but reported to involve rape accusers of music and fashion mogul Russell Simmons, now enters Park City, Utah as an acquisition title. Dick and Ziering expressed disappointment in Winfrey in their own statement.

“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,” said the pair.

“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.”

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