×

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outrage in Britain from the victim’s mother and from thousands of petitioners demanding that the Academy Award nod be rescinded.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.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Lindsay Lindenbaum on 'Tomboy,' Female Drummers,

    How 'Tomboy' Filmmaker Used SXSW Cancellation to Fine-Tune Her Film

    “Tomboy” filmmaker Lindsay Lindenbaum spent five years following four female drummers trying to make it in a male-dominated world. Lindenbaum profiles Bobbye Hall, a drummer who started at Motown Records in the late ’60s and later toured with Bob Dylan. Samantha Maloney, whose obsession with MTV’s “Headbangers Ball” as a teenager led her to fall [...]

  • Wonder Woman 1984

    Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Wipe Out All of Summer Blockbuster Season?

    Say goodbye to blockbuster season — at least for this year. After would-be summer hits from Disney, Warner Bros., and Universal already vacated their release dates, Sony Pictures announced Monday that its comic book adventure “Morbius,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and virtually all of its upcoming tentpoles were being moved into the fall or beyond. It was [...]

  • Dodgers Stadium Empty

    Movie Theaters and Concerts Could See Major Attendance Drop Post-Pandemic (Study)

    After a month of increasing anxiety and self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, audiences in the U.S. are largely not eager to return to public events once the crisis subsides, according to a new study. In a survey of 1,000 consumers in the U.S., 44% of respondents said they would attend fewer large public events, [...]

  • 'Dolphin Reef' Review: A Dazzling Look

    'Dolphin Reef' on Disney Plus: Film Review

    Out of the vast universe of nature documentaries, I don’t think I’m alone in finding films about life under the sea to occupy a special place. The very fact that they exist, of course, is amazing — though when you watch one, part of the wonder is that you’re not thinking about how aquamarine filmmakers [...]

  • CONJURING DAD – In Disney and

    What's Coming to Disney Plus in April 2020

    Disney Plus will continue to expand its library next month, adding older films as well as new episodes of its original programming. Less than a month after its release on March 6, Pixar’s “Onward” is making an early jump to Disney’s streaming platform amid the coronavirus pandemic. With the vast majority of theaters now closed [...]

  • Black AF Netflix

    Everything Coming to Netflix in April

    As everyone continues to self-quarantine and practice social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no better “at-home” activity than catching up on all the new films and shows streaming on Netflix this April. A number of new series are set to premiere on the streaming platform, including “Never Have I Ever,” “#BlackAf,” “OuterBanks,” “The [...]

  • Steven Spielberg AFI Movie Club

    Steven Spielberg Launches AFI's New Movie Club With 'The Wizard of Oz'

    As the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate and Americans face more time in quarantine, “There’s no place like home” resonates in an entirely different way, with the power to save millions – not just Dorothy. Aiming to encourage social distancing, the American Film Institute announced the launch of the AFI Movie Club with the help [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content