Russell Simmons Sex Abuse Documentary Is the Talk of Sundance

LOS ANGELES - JUN 11: entrepreneur Russell Simmons at the 15th Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball at the Private Residence on June 11, 2016 in Brentwood, CA — Photo by s_bukley

Despite Oprah Winfrey pulling her support and executive producer title from Russell Simmons sexual abuse documentary On the Record, the movie was the talk of the Sundance Film Festival.

The documentary from co-directors Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick made its world premiere on Jan. 25 at the Park City, Utah festival, in what one attendee described as an “emotional” experience.

The film focuses on Drew Dixon, a former music exec who worked for Simmons at Def Jam Records, and accused him of raping her in 1995. Multiple other women have since accused the hip-hop mogul of sexual abuse, however, Simmons has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

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(L-R) Drew Dixon and Sil Lai Abrams, both Russell Simmons accusers speak at a Q&A for "On The Record." (Credit: Matthew Carey)
(L-R) Drew Dixon and Sil Lai Abrams speak at a Q&A for “On The Record.” (Credit: Matthew Carey)

Dixon, author and domestic-violence activist Sil Lai Abrams, and other Simmons accusers attended the Sundance screening and received a standing ovation.

“It was quite an emotional Q&A,” Nonfiction Film Editor-in-Chief Matthew Carey told Urban Hollywood 411. “Directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering were choked up, as were many of the people in the film who came to Sundance.”

Carey said the screening was full and the audience was impressed.

“The filmmakers got a standing ovation as the Q&A started,” he explained. “Then they welcomed the Russell Simmons accusers to join them and the audience gave them a standing ovation.”

In a Jan. 21 interview with CBS This Morning, Winfrey admitted Simmons contacted her multiple times and “attempted to pressure” her to abandon the doc. She also said she took her name off the film because she was troubled by “inconsistencies,” saying she felt the movie needed more work and wasn’t ready for its Sundance debut.

Carey, a longtime entertainment insider who for years worked at CNN Entertainment, disagreed with her assessment.

“Sure looked finished to me,” he said.

While Winfrey’s withdrawal led to the film losing its distribution deal with Apple TV+, in the long run, the doc many end up on a bigger platform.

According to industry website, many other distributors sent reps to The Marc theatre where On the Record debuted.

“Apple TV+ and Winfrey’s loss will be another distributor’s gain here as buyers from Focus Features, Roadside Attractions, Amazon, CNN Films, IFC, Showtime, HBO Max and Netflix descended on The Marc tonight to get a look at what is arguably this fest’s hottest title,” the website said.