The other week came the news that Oprah Winfrey was pulling out as an executive producer of the upcoming documentary “On The Record” which deals with sexual assault accusations against music executive Russell Simmons.
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, who helmed the acclaimed “The Hunting Ground,” direct the film which focuses mainly on Simmons’ ex-Def Jam employee Drew Dixon who has accused him. The project was set to be released on Apple TV+ after its world premiere at Sundance later this week.
Now in an interview with The New York Times, Oprah says that Simmons attempted to pressure her through private calls and messages. Simmons reportedly tried to discredit the accusers, and a family member of one of the accusers was even contacted directly.
Oprah tells the paper: “I told him directly in a phone call that I will not be pressured either into, or out of, backing this film. I am only going to do what I believe to be the right thing.”
Last December, Winfrey shared a cut of the film with director Ava DuVernay who reportedly gave it a ‘harsh critique’. Further editing took place with additional interviews and a “three-minute montage that introduced five more Simmons accusers with a technique that featured one woman’s line bleeding into the next woman’s story”.
After that new cut was delivered, Winfrey sent the filmmakers a letter explaining her dissatisfaction, saying: “I think it is a disservice to the women and this film to have their gut-wrenching disclosures reduced to a montage of sound bites and not give them the stature of elevating their stories.”
Winfrey says she also thought there were inconsistencies in Dixon’s account that the film had not adequately addressed, but the filmmakers say they have voluminous research files corroborating all the women’s accounts.
Drew Dixon also commented saying: “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.”
Simmons has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex and has not been charged with a crime.
“On the Record” is still set to premiere at Sundance on this coming Saturday, January 25th.