Entertainment & Arts

Oscars 2019: Bulger mother calls on director to drop out of awards

Still from Detainment Image copyright Vincent Lambe
Image caption Two young actors play Bulger's killers in the film Detainment

The mother of murdered toddler James Bulger has said the director of a film about the boys who killed her son should withdraw from the Oscars race.

Vincent Lambe's Detainment is nominated for best live action short film.

Denise Fergus told ITV: "He should remove it from the Oscars, he's nominated himself... remove it from the public domain - withdraw yourself."

Lambe said in a statement: "The film was never intended to bring any further anguish to the family of James Bulger.

"We never intended any disrespect by not consulting them. While it is a painfully difficult case to understand, I believe we have a responsibility to try and make sense of what happened.

"Critics have specifically commended the film for being responsible and respectful to the victim."

Detainment recreates the moments before and after 10-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables took James from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993, as well as their police interviews using the original transcripts.

Image copyright PA
Image caption James Bulger was two when he was abducted and killed in 1993

Last month, Mrs Fergus told ITV's Loose Women she was asking people to boycott the film "because I just don't think it should have been made in the first place, especially without James's parents being consulted".

Irish director Lambe has previously apologised for not making Mrs Fergus aware of it soon enough and "for any upset the film may have caused".

Police detective's criticisms

Mrs Fergus told This Morning the film was just "reliving the nightmare" for her.

"I tried to put it behind me, I've got through all these years, to see that still [image] of him being led to his death by those two... And now it's being shown again?"

The detective who brought James Bulger's killers to justice has also said Lambe made a "grave mistake" in putting the film forward for an Oscar and called on him to show "decency" by withdrawing it.

Albert Kirby said the film misrepresents the investigation into the toddler's death.

Describing Detainment as "insensitive", he said the film depicted "an awful lot of aggression" during police interviews.

Image copyright Vincent Lambe
Image caption The film depicts the boys being interviewed by police

He told the BBC: "The actual events he puts in the film are accurate. You cannot fault that about it, but to my mind that's irrelevant. It's the whole context of it.

"The building they used, it looked like some disused warehouse, whereas we went to inordinate lengths to make sure where they were was comfortable. It was closed for prisoners.

"They had drinks, they had crisps...You had solicitors, a social worker with them and the parents. It was all very convivial."

The retired detective superintendent also said scenes on a railway line, where James's body was found, were "dealt with so insensitively".

He added: "It's causing so much unnecessary upset."

Film regulation 'needed'

The BBC has contacted Lambe for comment.

Mrs Fergus told This Morning there should be regulation on dramatisations, saying: "If it's a documentary the families should be contacted beforehand.

"He's even said that he never got in contact because 'he knows I'd say no'.

"How does he know I'd say no? He's never met me, he doesn't know me. I wouldn't have said 'no' straight away. I'd have said, 'show me or tell me what your plans are and we'll take it from there'.

Image copyright Vincent Lambe
Image caption The actors playing the boys were asked to recreate the events during and after the murder

"No, I wouldn't have agreed with the way he's done it but I would have told him to do it a different way."

Mrs Fergus's husband Stuart also questioned the duty of care to the child actors in the film, saying: "It's bad enough for them to have to go through the lines. I'm hoping for the two children, the actors, that there's a duty of care for them, the scenes they had to re-enact were quite horrific."

He added: "The child that's playing James is in tears, sobbing, what have they had to do to make that child cry, I don't know.

"Whatever they've done to that child, that child's thinking what have they done wrong?"

Petition against film

Presenter Phillip Schofield suggested a duty of care may have been taken during the film, adding: "Child actors are notoriously brilliant, possibly they're young, good actors; they've cried because they're told to cry."

Mr Fergus said he had seen the film but his wife had not.

More than 100,000 people have now signed a petition set up before the nominations were announced on Tuesday, asking the Oscars to disqualify the 30-minute film.

Mrs Fergus has been a vocal campaigner over the years, pressing for longer sentences for her son's murderers, who were sentenced to a minimum of eight years, and publishing her recent book, I Let Him Go.

In a statement released after Mrs Fergus first spoke about the film, Lambe said: "I have enormous sympathy for the Bulger family and I am extremely sorry for any upset the film may have caused them. With hindsight, I am sorry I didn't make Mrs Fergus aware of the film."

He added: "The film was not made for financial gain and nobody involved in the making of the film intends to profit from it."

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