Mother of murdered 2-year-old James Bulger 'disgusted and upset' movie about his death is nominated for an Oscar

Denise Fergus leaves the ITV studio on June 8, 2016, in London. (Photo: Neil Mockford/Alex Huckle/GC Images)
Denise Fergus leaves the ITV studio on June 8, 2016, in London. (Photo: Neil Mockford/Alex Huckle/GC Images)

Even before the Oscar nominations were announced, Denise Fergus was against Detainment, the 30-minute film that dramatizes the 1993 kidnapping and murder of her 2-year-old son, James Bulger, by two 10-year-old boys near Liverpool. When it was officially nominated in the category of Best Live Action Short Film, she didn’t hold back.

Detainment, which was written and produced by Vincent Lambe, is based on taped interviews and other records taken from the case, in which James was abducted from the grocery store, where he was with his mother. Fergus, who refused to attend the trial of her son’s young killers, and James’s father, Ralph Bulger, both said they were not consulted before the film was made.

“The first I heard about the film was just before Christmas,” Fergus told Britain’s ITV on Jan. 7. “They should have got in contact and let us know.”

Fergus urged people to boycott the movie, which has already won awards at international film festivals.

“I don’t want to keep reliving the past. I haven’t watched it, and I won’t,” Fergus said. “It takes you right back to that day, and that’s not something I want to do.”

She also promoted a petition to stop the film from being shown. It’s now been adjusted to have its Oscar nomination rescinded. More than 178,000 people have signed.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave the following statement to Yahoo Entertainment: “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 longstanding 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.”

For his part, Lambe apologized for not consulting the Bulger family in a post dated Jan. 6.

“I have enormous sympathy for the Bulger family and I am extremely sorry for any upset the film may have caused them,” Lambe wrote in part. “With hindsight, I am sorry I did not make Mrs Fergus aware of the film. I would be happy to meet with her privately now to make that apology in person, to explain our reasons for making the film and offer my heartfelt reassurances that I never intended any disrespect by not consulting her.”

This post was originally published on Jan. 24, 2019.

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