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‘On The Record,’ Russell Simmons #MeToo Doc, Charts Course to Sundance After Oprah Exit

UPDATED: A spokesperson for Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering says the filmmaking team behind “On the Record” will participate in print and broadcast interviews at the Sundance film festival. The accusers featured in the film are weighing press options at this time.

Earlier, a spokesperson for the Russell Simmons documentary confirmed to Variety that only photo calls would be booked in support of the project. The rapidly-changing nature of plans reflects the bumpy road the film has had in its approach to the Park City festival, following the very public withdrawal of executive producer Oprah Winfrey.

Subjects in the film include women who have accused hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of rape and sexual misconduct, which he denies. Behind the scenes, efforts are being made to refocus attention to the film, and not the fallout from the departure of Winfrey as executive producer and Apple TV Plus as distributor.

Among the women in the cast is Drew Dixon, a music industry executive who is chief among Simmons’ accusers. In an initial statement, Winfrey said she unequivocally believed the women involved but felt the film was incomplete. Her decision blindsided Dick and Ziering, the pair told Variety.

Less than a week after her announcement, Winfrey told the New York Times that Simmons attempted to pressure her to pull her support from the project, which would have released under her overall content deal with Apple. Winfrey maintains he had nothing to do with her decision.

Dixon’s story is described as “haunting” and a “complex study of race, gender, and the shared feelings of helplessness and terror that come from abuse.” It grapples with the specific burden for women of color who break silences to take on mythic figures in numerous communities.

In response to Oprah’s withdrawal, Dixon said, “I feel like I’m experiencing a second crime. I am being silenced. The broader community is being intimidated. The most powerful black woman in the world is being intimidated.”

The film continues to seek domestic distribution.

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