Academy refuses to pull James Bulger film from Oscars despite family’s plea

A controversial short film about the murder of toddler James Bulger will be allowed to compete at the Oscars.

Sunday, 27th January 2019, 6:00 am
Denise Fergus, the mother of murdered James Bulger. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

James’ mother, Denise Fergus, had asked for Vincent Lambe’s Detainment to be pulled from next month’s ceremony after it was nominated in the best live action short category.

Fergus said she was haunted by some of the imagery in the film, especially re-enactments of James being led away by the hand by his killers Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

Despite her pleas, the Academy has confirmed Detainment will remain in contention.

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Undated handout photo of James Bulger. Picture: PA

In a statement, it said: “The Academy offers its deepest condolences to Ms Fergus and her family. We are deeply moved and saddened by the loss that they have endured, and we take their concerns very seriously.

“Following long-standing foundational principles established to maintain the integrity of the awards, the Academy does not in any way influence the voting process.

Detainment was voted on by Academy members. When making their choices, each individual applies their own judgment regarding the film’s creative, artistic and technical merits. We understand that this will not alleviate the pain experienced by the family; however we hope it clarifies the Academy’s neutral role in the voting process.”

Two-year-old James was led away from a Merseyside shopping centre in 1993 – a moment captured on CCTV – by Venables and Thompson, who tortured and killed him.

They were arrested soon after and convicted following a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court.

Trial judge Mr Justice Morland told the pair they had committed a crime of “unparalleled evil and barbarity”.

Detainment follows the events surrounding the murder, and is comprised of re-enactments based on the transcripts from police interviews with Venables and Thompson.

Lambe said: “The public opinion at the moment now is that those two boys were simply evil and anybody who says anything different or gives an alternate reason as to why they did it, or tries to understand why they did it, they get criticised for it.

“I think we have the responsibility to try and make sense of what happened.”

The Academy Awards take place on 24 February.