UPDATE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released a statement Friday in response to Denise Fergus, the mother whose murdered 2-year-old James Bulger inspired Detainment, and explained why the short film was nominated for an Oscar.
“The Academy offers its deepest condolences to Ms. Fergus and her family,” the statement obtained by EW begins. “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,” it continues. “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.”
EARLIER: Denise Fergus, the mother whose murdered child served as the basis for the Irish short film Detainment, spoke out on Tuesday after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gave an Oscar nomination to the work.
“This is all I want to say at present,” Fergus prefaced in a tweet before expressing her disgust over Detainment.
The short, from Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon, is based on the 1993 case of James Bulger, Fergus’ 2-year-old child from Kirkby, Merseyside in the U.K. who was abducted, tortured, and killed by two young boys. Detainment dramatizes these two 10-year-olds as they are detained by police under suspicion.
When asked for comment, Lambe pointed to a previous statement in which he apologized for not contacting Fergus for permission to explore her son’s story.
“As we set out to make a fact-based film that was impartial, we did not attempt to contact any of the families involved and instead relied solely on the factual material,” he 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 did not make Mrs. Fergus aware of the film.”
Fergus wrote, as slightly edited for clarity, “I cannot express how disgusted and upset I am at this so called film that has been made and now nominated for an Oscar. It’s one thing making a film like this without contacting or getting permission from James’s family but another to have a child re-enact the final hours of James’s life before he was brutally murdered, and making myself and my family have to relive this all over again!”
Fergus launched a petition that she says has been signed by more than 90,000 people to have Detainment removed from Oscars contention, “which has now been ignored just like my feelings by the Academy,” she continued.
“I’m so angry and upset at this present time. I personally want to thank everyone that has signed the petition up to now and hopefully will carry on supporting me in this. I just hope the film doesn’t win its category in the Oscars.”
The Academy did not immediately respond to EW’s requests for comment.
This article has been updated with a response from Lambe.