After Oprah Backs Out, HBO Max Steps in to Stream Film About Russell Simmons’ Accusers

Illustration for article titled After Oprah Backs Out, HBO Max Steps in to Stream Film About Russell Simmons’ Accusers
Photo: Pool (Getty Images)

After Oprah Winfrey and Apple TV Plus backed out of plans to back a documentary film on the women accusing hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct and assault, HBO Max has stepped in, saying it will stream the film on its service that launches in May.

Advertisement

As the New York Times reports, this news comes on the heels of the film’s highly successful debut at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, last month.

From the Times:

“On the Record” tells the story of the music executive Drew Dixon and her decision, in the early weeks of the #MeToo movement, to publicly accuse Mr. Simmons of raping her. (Her account of the 1995 encounter was first reported in The New York Times in 2017.)

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, two documentarians whose previous work has focused on sexual assault in the military (“The Invisible War”) and on college campuses (“The Hunting Ground”), tracked Ms. Dixon’s journey along with those of other women who accused Mr. Simmons of sexual misconduct, including Sil Lai Abrams, Sheri Hines, Jenny Lumet and Alexia Norton Jones. The film also addresses the various cultural forces that have prevented black women from reporting sex crimes. Mr. Simmons, who has not been charged with a crime, has maintained that he did not sexually assault anyone.

Advertisement

The Times reported in January that Winfrey pulled out of serving as executive producer of the film due to “creative differences” with the filmmakers. She said in a statement at the time that she “unequivocally believes and supports the women,” and she believes their stories “deserve to be told and heard.”

Winfrey pulling out of the deal meant Apple TV Plus was also out as a distributor for the film. Their involvement was based on Winfrey’s overall deal with the company.

In a Dec. 13 post on Instagram, Simmons himself questioned Oprah’s involvement in the documentary, saying he found it “troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentary.” Simmons denies that he has ever “been violent” or forced himself on anyone.

While Winfrey admitted to the Times that Simmons had “pressured” her to withdraw from the film, she told the Times that he had nothing to do with her backing out of the film.

Advertisement

I told him directly in a phone call that I will not be pressured either into, or out of, backing this film,” Winfrey said. “I am only going to do what I believe to be the right thing.”

From the Times:

Rather, she said that she believed the film had not adequately addressed inconsistencies in Ms. Dixon’s account, although Ms. Winfrey said she still believed Ms. Dixon. She also said the documentary had not done enough to tackle the misogyny within the broader hip-hop culture at the time Ms. Dixon was active in the industry.

The filmmakers said they had addressed all of Ms. Winfrey’s concerns.

“Kirby and I are so proud to be teaming with HBO Max to give this film the outstanding platform it deserves and can’t wait for the public to see and hear the voices of these courageous women,” Ms. Ziering said in a statement.

Advertisement

There have been at least one dozen allegations of sexual misconduct made against Russell Simmons. He has yet to be charged with a crime.

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

rewind4thatbehind
Rewind4ThatBehind

Something tells me this film will unearth a very visceral reaction from a lot of people in the public and industry, somewhat along the lines of the R. Kelly documentary last year.

I’m not understanding Oprah’s position but I also figure when you’re an insider, you’re privy to much more information than the public will ever know. So as much as I want to point a finger to HER inconsistencies, I can feel there’s something more going on here.

Regardless, we need this film out. Russell has a lot to answer for.