13 Aug 2022

Irish filmmaker wants James Bulger film being screened in Derry to reopen debate on the case

The writer and director of an award-winning film about the murder of Liverpool toddler, James Bulger, screening in Derry this weekend, said he hopes the film will open up a new debate on what made two 10-year-old boys murder a child. Vincent Lambe’s film, ‘Detainment’, is based on the true story of James Bulger, abducted in Liverpool in 1993 and found brutally murdered two days later. However, the most shocking aspect of the case was that the main suspects were just children themselves - two ten-year-old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. Based on their interview transcripts, the film dramatizes the police interviews which took place at the time. Detainment stars Will O’Connell (Game of Thrones), David Ryan (Vikings), Tara Breathnach (The Tudors), Morgan C. Jones (Legend of Cambria), Brian Fortune (Game of Thrones), Kathy Monahan (Vikings), and introduces two exceptional young actors, Ely Solan and Leon Hughes. Speaking to the Derry News, Vincent Lamb said that he hopes the film will challenge public perception of the boys who committed the murder and open a wider debate on the matter. When asked what drew him to the story, he replied: “I was asked that same question when I was over in London where I did an interview for Sky News; the UK audience find it strange that an Irish filmmaker would be interested in something so deeply rooted in the British consciousness. “But it affected the people here in Ireland just as much as the people in the UK. I was 12 at the time it happened and I remember it very well. “I remember growing up hearing about it and heard it mentioned again as an adult and it was unexpected how I felt about it at the time. “I started reading everything I could find on it and then I got the transcripts [of the police interviews] and felt that I was seeing something not everyone else was seeing.” Sensitive Vincent said that casting the child actors for the roles of Thompson and Venables was challenging but that the young actors, Ely Solan (Thompson) and Leon Hughes (Venables), who have been critically-acclaimed for their astonishing performances, were ‘phenomenal’. “I had a lot of apprehension about making a film on such a sensitive story,” he said. “The public outrage at the time was unprecedented and it hasn’t gone away, it’s still there. So many people just seen these boys as being evil and couldn’t cope with the fact that they were just two little boys. The only way they could make sense of it was to see them as evil. “Newspapers labelled them as ‘evil monsters’, the spawn of Satan’ and ‘freaks of nature. People hadn’t really looked at other points of view and if you did, you were criticised – people couldn’t see any other reason for it other than they were evil. “When I was 12, I accepted that they must have been evil but as an adult when I researched it a bit more, my opinion altered and I hope that this film will help other people change their minds. “By looking into the boys’ family background, I got a better understanding of what could have led two 10-year-old boys to commit such a horrible crime. “This film is not sympathetic to the boys and is not trying to make an excuse for them in any way but it humanises them. People may be more comfortable thinking of them as evil monsters but, after reading the transcripts, it was a tragedy for three families and that’s not a popular opinion. “The film is entirely factual, there is no embellishment – it is almost entirely verbatim. When I was making the film, given my apprehensions, it was very important to me that everything was factual.” ‘Prevent this happening again’ Vincent said that he was especially nervous when he heard that journalist and expert of the James Bulger murder, David James Smith, was attending one a screening of the film at the Winchester Film Festival. Smith wrote a book on the matter, The Sleep of Reason: The James Bulger Case. “He turned up at the last screening in the UK and I was terrified,” he said. “He’s such an expert on the case, I was dreading to hear what he thought but he said the film was ‘authentic’ and a ‘remarkable achievement’ which was an amazing endorsement. “He also wrote a lovely review saying that if the audience were willing to find the truth out about those boys, they could not ignore their inescapable smallness.” “People don’t talk about this case enough, but if you have any other opinion other than the boys were monsters, it’s rejected and it stifles debate on the issue. We want to prevent this happening again so we need to understand the case. “I remember the Judge’s comments about the boys and I thought it was a ludicrous decision to name them but the more I read, the more I understood his reasons – he wanted a discussion about it, to look into the background of the boys and see how something like could be prevented from ever happening again. I hope that people will debate the case again after watching the film.” Vincent finally had a word for the Bulger family: “I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t have sympathy for the Bulger family, I have enormous sympathy for little James, for what he went through and what his family have been through.” ‘Detainment’ by award-winning director, writer and producer, Vincent Lambe and Irish producer, Darren Mahon, will screen at Foyle Film Festival in the Nerve Centre on Sunday, November 25, at 4pm. More information about the film and upcoming screenings can be found at:

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