James Bulger's mother, Denise Fergus, is "disgusted" that the Academy chose to nominate Detainment for a Short Film Oscar. The 30-minute true-crime movie is based on police interrogations of Bulger's killers, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were ten years-old at the time when they murdered the two-year old. The Academy chose to nominate the movie for Best Live-Action Short Film, and Fergus is not happy about the situation. Bulger was kidnapped in 1993 from a grocery store by Thompson and Venables, who threw paint in the toddler's eyes, threw stones at him, and then beat him to death with a pipe. Bulger's body was later found discarded near some train tracks.
The Academy released the Oscar nominations earlier this week and Detainment was included after Denise Fergus started a petition to remove the movie from the shortlist. The petition had over 90,000 signatures before the Academy Awards announcement and as of this writing, there are over 115,000. The petition has gotten widespread coverage since the shortlist was announced. Fergus had this to say about the nomination.
"I cannot express how disgusted and upset I am at this so-called film that has been made and now nominated for an Oscar. It's one thing making a film like this without contacting or getting permission from James's family but another to have a child reenact the final hours of James's life before he was brutally murdered and making myself and my family have to relive this all over again! After everything I have said about this so-called film and asking it to be removed, it's still been nominated for an Oscar even though 90,000 people have signed a petition which has now been ignored just like my feelings by the Academy."
Detainment director Vincent Lambe did not consult with James Bulger's family while making the movie. He has since apologized, noting that he has "enormous sympathy for the Bulger family," going on to say that he is "extremely sorry for any upset the film may have caused them." Additionally, the director offered to donate earnings from screenings of the movie to the James Bulger Memorial Trust. Many have noticed that up until a few weeks ago, Lambe was still using a James Bulger hashtag to promote Detainment.
Ralph Bulger, James' father, has also been very vocal about his feelings on Detainment. Bulger believes that Hollywood should "hang their heads in shame," noting that the "murder of a baby" should be off limits. He has also insinuated, along with many others, that the movie offers a "sympathetic portrayal of James's killers." Vincent Lambe has argued that the movie is "in no way sympathetic to the killers and does not attempt to make excuses for them."
Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were both released from prison in 2001 and given new identities. However, Venables returned to prison in 2010 over child pornography offences, was released in 2013, only to go back to prison for the same charge yet again in 2017. He is still behind bars. We will find out on February 24th if Detainment wins the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film. You can read the response to the Oscar announcement below, thanks to Denise Fergus' Twitter account.
This is all I want to say at present. pic.twitter.com/GbyshtVoa9— Denise Fergus (@Denise_fergus) January 22, 2019