×

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outrage in Britain from the victim’s mother and from thousands of petitioners demanding that the Academy Award nod be rescinded.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

More Film

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International

    'Curse of La Llorona' Tops International Box Office With $30 Million

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” led the way at the international box office, summoning $30 million when it opened in 71 foreign markets. The supernatural thriller collected $26.5 million in North America for a global start of $56.5 million. “La Llorona,” based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, [...]

  • Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona'

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Wins Worst Easter Weekend in Over a Decade

    Warner Bros. and New Line’s “The Curse of La Llorona” ascended to the top of domestic box office charts, conjuring $26.5 million when it opened in 3,372 North American theaters. “La Llorona” is the latest horror movie to outperform expectations, further cementing the genre as one of the most reliable box office draws. Even so, [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content