Controversial James Bulger film will be able to compete at Oscars

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

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.

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

James Bulger
James Bulger

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

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 films’ 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.”

Denise Fergus
Denise Fergus

Two-year-old James was led away from a Merseyside shopping centre in 1993 – a moment captured on CCTV – by Venables and 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.”

The Academy Awards take place in Los Angeles on February 24.