After the film's Oscar nomination this Tuesday, Fergus released an official statement on Twitter. "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," wrote Fergus, "even though over 90,000 people have signed a petition which has now been ignored just like my feelings by the Academy." Fergus' Change.org petition now has over 180k signatures.
James Bulger was killed when he was only three by two 11-year-old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. Detainment recalls the murder and the subsequent police interrogations of Thompson and Venables, who are played by young actors Leon Hughes and Ely Sloan in the film. The film is reportedly based on transcripts from the original investigation. Directed by Vincent Lambe, it is nominated for Best Live Action Short.
"I just don't want to keep going back there all the time, but things like this keep happening to take me back," Fergus said on Loose Women in early January. "And I don't think [the filmmaker] had the right to do it anyway. James' family should have been informed on this film, which is now being put on the short list for an Oscar."
Lambe apologised for not seeking the permission of Fergus in a statement released on Twitter on January 6.
"[Detainment] is entirely factual with no embellishments whatsoever. It was never intended to bring any further anguish to the family of James Bulger, but rather to examine why children commit serious crimes," the statement reads. In his apology, Lambe writes, "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 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 reassurance that I never intended any disrespect by not consulting her."
However, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises the Oscars, has released a statement explaining why Detainment will remain eligible for an award despite the traction gained by Fergus's petition.
"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," the statement reads.
"Following long-standing 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 judgement 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."