Director of controversial James Bulger film will not withdraw it from Oscars

The director of an Oscar-nominated short film about the murder of James Bulger has said he will not withdraw it from the awards, despite pleas for its removal.

James’s mother Denise Fergus and her husband have called upon Irish filmmaker Vincent Lambe to remove the film from the public domain and to withdraw it from contention at the Academy Awards next month.

Lambe, whose film Detainment is a contender in the best live action short category at the prestigious event, told the BBC: “I won’t withdraw it from the Oscars.

“It’s like saying we should burn every copy of it. I think it would defeat the purpose of making the film.”

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

They were arrested soon after and convicted following a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court and ordered to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, the normal substitute sentence for life imprisonment when the offender is a juvenile.

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.”

Jon Venables (left) and Robert Thompson
Jon Venables (left) and Robert Thompson

Mrs Fergus was joined by her husband Stuart on ITV’s This Morning earlier on Thursday, who said: “Vincent was nothing to do (with the case), why does he have a responsibility to make the film? He was 12 years old when it happened.

“If you go on social media, that’s all he’s talking about, trying to get himself out there, putting himself forward for the Oscar.

“We’re actually saying to Vincent Lambe now, because he’s put himself forward for the Oscar, withdraw that yourself and remove your film from the public domain.”

Mrs Fergus said she believes the film takes liberties with the truth of the case, and that she is haunted by the images revisited in Lambe’s work.

“Seeing the images of actors playing James, it’s just horrendous,” she told the TV programme.

“I just can’t get that image out of my head of him being led away.”

She added, of Lambe: “I don’t think he’s sorry at all… Would I meet him now? Not now. It’s too late because he’s gone ahead and done it. There’s a petition (to get film withdrawn from the Oscars) and it proves how strong people are feeling on this.

“Something should be put in place. If films like this are being made, the victims’ families should be told before it actually goes ahead.”

Lambe has previously apologised for not contacting Mrs Fergus and her family about the film, and he told the BBC that he does “regret not telling them about it sooner”.

In an additional statement, he said: “The film was never intended to bring any further anguish to the family of James Bulger and we never intended any disrespect by not consulting them.”