UPDATED with video: For more than 20 years, former music industry executive Drew Dixon held onto a corrosive secret. The HBO Max documentary On the Record, directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, reveals how Dixon made the painful decision to come forward with allegations that she had been raped by her boss at Def Jam Recordings, hip hop impresario Russell Simmons.
“When we first met Drew she…was struggling with actually even going on the record, going public,” Dick says during Deadline’s Contenders Documentary awards-season event. “We thought this stage of a survivor’s journey was really, really important to document, and it is a struggle.”
Dixon said as a woman of color it was agonizing to level accusations against Simmons, a prominent Black entrepreneur, fearing it would contribute to a destructive societal narrative that Black men are “predatory, inherently violent.” She shares how she ultimately resolved that dilemma.
“It occurs to me that I have a responsibility that’s greater than just my loyalty to this genre, this art form, and even to my people,” Dixon says on the panel. “I have a responsibility to set an example and to break cycles that are destructive for all of us…Keeping this secret, I realized, doesn’t serve anybody.”
On the Record explores the experience of other women who accuse Simmons of rape and sexual misconduct (he has denied the allegations and insisted “all of my [sexual] relations have been consensual”). It’s the first documentary to foreground stories of Black women in the #MeToo era.
“The universal reaction we get is that the film is revelatory,” Dick notes. Added Ziering, “[We get] people saying, ‘Thank you. I finally feel seen and heard…’ It’s an important watch but it’s a hard one to do alone especially as a person of color or as a survivor of this kind of crime…It’s a really important thing to watch and hear these women and not let their voices be silenced anymore.”
Check out the panel video above.