Oscars 2019: Detainment Allowed to Compete After Calls for Withdrawal
Detainment, the British film recreating events around the notorious murder of two-year-old James Bulger, will be allowed to compete at the Oscars, the awards’ organizers say.
James Bulger’s mother, Denise Fergus, had called for the movie to be withdrawn, after it was nominated in the best live action short category.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it takes Denise Fergus’s concerns “very seriously” but maintains a “neutral role” in the voting process.
It said academy members applied their “own judgment” on the film’s merits.
James Bulger was a month short of his third birthday when he was abducted by two 10-year-old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, at the Strand shopping center in Bootle, Merseyside, the UK, in 1993.
Detainment, directed by Vincent Lambe, recreates the police interviews with James’ killers, by using transcripts from the original tapes played in court during their trial.
Denise Fergus had said she was haunted by some of the imagery in the movie and called on the academy to remove it from next month’s ceremony or for Vincent Lambe to withdraw it.
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In statement the academy said it “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.”
The statement added: “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.”
An online petition calling on Detainment to be dropped from the Academy Awards in Los Angeles on February 24 has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.
However, Vincent Lambe has refused to withdraw his work, saying: “I think it would defeat the purpose of making the film.”
He said he did not mean any disrespect by not consulting Denise Fergus or her family but maintained: “The film was made in the interest of understanding why it happened in order to prevent something similar happening again in the future.”
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were convicted of murder after a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court in November 1993, have since been released from detention and given new identities.