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Oscar Nomination for Short Film ‘Detainment’ Sparks Backlash in Britain

Oscar-nominated short film “Detainment,” about a notorious real-life child abduction and murder, has sparked outrage in Britain from the victim’s mother and from thousands of petitioners demanding that the Academy Award nod be rescinded.

The 30-minute film centers on the 1993 killing of 2-year-old James Bulger, one of the most shocking criminal cases in modern British history. Two 10-year-old boys lured the toddler from a shopping center near Liverpool, then tortured and killed him. The film relies on transcripts of interviews with the killers to re-enact the events.

Denise Fergus, James’ mother, and others protest what they see as a gratuitous depiction of a horrific incident and a too-sympathetic portrait of the killers. They also note that the director, Vincent Lambe, made no effort to speak to Fergus or James’ father while making “Detainment.”

“I cannot express how disgusted and upset I am that this so-called film has been made and now nominated for an Oscar,” Fergus tweeted shortly after the nominations were announced Tuesday.

A petition with the title “Stop the Jamie Bulger movie from being shown and taken off the Oscars shortlist” has garnered almost 100,000 signatures.

Lambe, who is Irish, has said he was attempting to add some shades of gray to a case where many Britons see none. He denies accusations that his project is sympathetic to the two murderers, who were held in juvenile detention until they turned 18 in 2001, at which point they were released on parole and given new identities. Lambe has also said he is sorry for not contacting James’ family about the project before it was made.

Fergus had already been a vocal critic of “Detainment” before its Oscar nod for best live-action short film.

“After everything I’ve said about this so-called film and asking for it to be removed, it’s still been nominated for an Oscar even though over 90,000 people have signed a petition which has now been ignored just like my feelings by the Academy,” she tweeted. “I’m so angry and upset at this present time.”

Lisa Young, who started the petition, called the movie “a heartless thing,” especially as James’ family was not consulted when it was being made.

The Twelve Media-produced film had won several accolades ahead of making the Oscar shortlist, including at the Odense Film Festival, Cannes Lions and the Krakow Film Festival.

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