The upcoming Untitled Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering Film, a documentary that dwells into the sexual harassment claims of a former Black music executive, has one less executive producer: Oprah Winfrey.

The media giant, who has not shied away from supporting sexual assault victims in the past, cites creative differences with the respected filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering. Their untitled project, which is set to be shown at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, follows one woman as she “grapples with her decision to become one of the first women of color to come forward as part of the #MeToo movement.”

A still from Untitled Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering Film by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Martyna Starosta.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, where Winfrey released a statement, she said: “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’s statement continued: “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.”

Dick and Ziering, who received a Peabody award and Oscar nomination for their 2012 documentary The Invisible War, which wielded a much needed spotlight on rape victims in the military, will continue with the doc’s premiere at Sundance.

They said in a statement to THR: “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 documentary follows Drew Dixon, a former music executive at Def Jam Recordings in the mid 1990s. Dixon publicly accused Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct in 2017. Simmons has unequivocally denied any wrong doing and admitted to passing nine lie detector tests. In response to Winfrey’s initial association with the doc, Simmons wrote on Instagram: “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.”

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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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Untitled Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering Film debuts on January 25 at Sundance Film Festival. 

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