Oprah Winfrey and Apple TV+ step away from sexual assault documentary over creative differences

Oprah Winfrey at Apple's March event
Oprah Winfrey at Apple's March event (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Oprah Winfrey has resigned as Executive Producer of a sexual misconduct film.
  • Winfrey cites creative differences as the reason for her departure from the project.
  • The film, which was set to debut on Apple TV+, will no longer be released through the service.

Oprah Winfrey has announced that she is stepping away from a sexual assault documentary that is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month. Winfrey was, up until this point, an Executive Producer of the film, which is focused on sexual assault in the music industry.

Winfrey released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that explained she decided to step away from the film over creative differences with the filmmakers. She also noted that the film, which was set to debut on Apple TV+ after the film festival, would no longer be released on the service.

"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."

Oprah paid respect to the filmmakers behind the film in spite of her disagreement about the film's readiness for release, and also stated that she will focus her time instead on supporting victims through a partnership with Time's Up, an organization fighting against harassment in the workplace.

"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."

Apple had originally left the subject of the film out of the announcement, but the description of the film at Sundance revealed that the film will focus on Drew Dixon, a former executive at Def Jam Recordings who alleges sexual misconduct charges against Russell Simmons, co-founder of the label.

"A brilliant former music executive who grapples with whether to go public with her story of assault and abuse by a notable figure in the music industry. The film is a profound examination of race, gender, class and intersectionality, and the toll assaults take on their victims and society at large."

Time's Up Foundation president and CEO Tina Tchen responded to Oprah's decision with a statement.

"TIME'S UP is in full support of the survivors who have spoken out about Russell Simmons. These women are brave. We believe them. We support Oprah Winfrey in maintaining that the victims' stories deserve to be heard on their own terms. Too often, black women are silenced, disbelieved, or even vilified when they speak out. On top of that, for years, these women have been attacked by powerful forces surrounding Russell Simmons – illustrating how difficult it is to speak out against powerful men. And how important it is for powerful men to be held accountable for their actions. As Oprah made clear in her statement, any decision by her and Apple regarding this documentary does not change the underlying facts. We assert TIME'S UP's unwavering support for these survivors. We are in awe of their courage and strength. We will continue to fight for them, and we will continue to fight for a future where black women are truly heard and believed."

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.