Belfast Telegraph

Irish director defends Oscar-nominated film about James Bulger's killers

By Aoife Kelly

The Irish director of a short film about James Bulger’s killers has apologised for any upset he has caused to the Bulger family.

Detainment, written and directed by Vincent Lambe, is based on transcripts of the police interrogation of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.

The boys were ten years old when they were convicted of murdering Jamie (2) after abducting him from a shopping centre in Liverpool.

The film has made the Oscars short list of ten films in the Live Action Shorts category with the final five revealed on January 22.

However, it has faced backlash in recent weeks, with James’ parents Denise Fergus and Ralph Bulger criticising Mr Lambe for not consulting with the family before making the film.

Mrs Fergus has called for the film to be removed from the Oscars short list.

Speaking on ITV show Loose Women on Monday, she said that she had not been consulted about the film and felt the director did not have "the right to do it".

“In my own personal opinion I think he’s just trying to big his career up," she said.  "And to do that under someone else’s grief is just unbelievable and unbearable.”

James' father Ralph, in an interview with the Daily Mirror, echoed Mrs Fergus' criticism that the family had not been consulted.

"It has been 26 years since my son was taken and murdered and so I have seen many documentaries and news stories about him. But I have never been so cut up and offended by something that shows so little compassion to James and his family," he said.

“I accept this is a murder of such magnitude it will always be written about and featured in the news but to make a film so sympathetic to James’s killers is devastating.”

Mr Lambe has apologised for any upset caused and for not consulting with the family, and explained his reasoning for not doing so, in several interviews and in a lengthy post on social media.

“I do have enormous sympathy for the Bulger family and I’m incredibly sorry for any upset the film has caused to them,” he told Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio 1 on Wednesday.

“It was never intended to bring any more anguish to the Bulger family.”

He added, “In hindsight I think we probably should have got in touch or let her know we were going to make it.”

Explaining why he did not consult the family, he said, “There’s more than one perspective on the case and we wanted to make a film that was impartial and focuses solely on the factual material which has been public knowledge for 25 years.

 “And we decided not to contact any of the family for that reason, because if you contact one family then there’s pressure to tell it from the way they want it to be told.

“Contacting the families doesn’t change what’s in this transcript but most likely it would change what would be in the film and then you’re suppressing information and you’re telling a version of the truth.”

Mr Lambe blamed an interview he did with ITV’s Good Morning Britain for igniting the backlash as it was followed by an interview in the Liverpool Echo with one of the lead detectives in the case, Albert Kirby, who said the film “lacks any form of taste or decency”.

“The only explanation I have for that is that he couldn’t have seen the film at the time when he made those comments,” said Mr Lambe.

“He says a lot of other things about the film which are just completely untrue, the things the tabloids have all ran with and we’ve been asking them to run my response to that and they just won’t run it.”

Detainment will screen as part of the festival shorts programme at the upcoming Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.

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