(Reuters) – The director of an Oscar-nominated short film about two boys who murdered a British toddler in 1993 on Thursday defended the film, saying he never intended to bring fresh anguish to the families involved.
“Detainment,” a 30-minute film about the death of James Bulger, caused a furor in Britain after it was nominated for an Oscar on Tuesday in the short film category. An online petition asking for the film to be withdrawn from Oscar contention has attracted more than 130,000 signatures.
The James Bulger case, in which two 10-year-old boys lured Bulger from a northern English shopping mall and tortured him to death, is one of Britain’s most notorious criminal cases.
“Detainment,” directed by Vincent Lamb, uses transcripts of police interviews, official records and security camera footage of the boys luring Bulger away from the mall. Actors play the parts of the two convicted boys.
Bulger’s mother, Denise Fergus, said on Twitter that the film had made her family relive the event all over again. Other family members said the film humanized the two young killers.
Lambe said in a statement that the film “was never intended to bring any further anguish to the family of James Bulger and 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,” he added.
Lambe said there was “no depiction of the murder or graphic details of any kind” in the film.
“Detainment” won several awards at film festivals in Europe in 2018 but has no theatrical release date.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose members choose the Oscar nominees, did not return a request for comment on Thursday. The Oscar winners will be announced at a ceremony in Hollywood on Feb. 24.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Leslie Adler