One of this year's Oscar nominations has set off something of an international brouhaha.
At the center of the controversy is the movie "Detainment," which was nominated in the best live-action short category, an accolade that has offended many in Britain.
The Daily Mirror called the film's nomination an "Oscars insult." " 'Hang your head in shame, Hollywood ... this is off limits,' " read a headline in the tabloid newspaper. Opinion pieces and radio programs have debated the film extensively. And there's an online petition calling for it to be removed from consideration.
The 30-minute movie caused such a stir because it is about one of Britain's most notorious — and troubling — crimes.
In 1993, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were convicted of murdering James Bulger. The killers were just 10 years old at the time; James was only 2. The images of Venables and Thompson leading James from a mall while his mother was distracted — captured on security cameras and widely shown on TV news at the time — are seared in many people's memories.
The pair walked James several miles before torturing and killing him with, among other things, bricks and a metal bar, the police investigation and the boys' testimonies revealed. They left his body on a railway line.
They were released from prison in 2001. Still, the decades-old case keeps being revisited: Venables, now 36, was jailed in 2010 for possession of child pornography, and was charged with the same offense last year, prompting the case to be revisited.
The killing has been the subject of a play, which also caused complaints, as well as numerous books. But none has caused such an outcry as "Detainment," which has been accused of being sympathetic to the killers.
The film, based on police interview transcripts, does not re-create the murder: Instead it focuses on the killers' interrogation. Both deny any involvement at first, then blame each other.
Denise Fergus, James Bulger's mother, called for the film to be pulled from the Oscars and complained that the family was not consulted about it.
Albert Kirby, the detective who led the investigation into the killing, also has called for its withdrawal. "It's causing so much unnecessary upset," he said.
Vincent Lambe, the film's 38-year-old Irish director, said that in 2012 he started researching the murder, which also dominated the news in Dublin during his childhood.
"I wanted to try and understand what could have led two 10-year-old boys to have done this," he said. There has never been a proper debate about why the killing happened, despite its prominence, he added.
He considered contacting the families involved, he said, but decided it could harm the film. "We wanted to make a film that was factual and impartial," he said. "I think if we did contact them there'd be pressure to tell it the way they wanted it to be told.
"We never meant any disrespect," he added. "I hope people can see it with an open mind, but that might not be possible now."
In a statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said, "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."
Carter Pilcher, president of ShortsTV, the company that is distributing the nominated short films to theaters (including the Uptown in Minneapolis starting Friday), said that he does not expect the film to be dropped. "The Academy can't be in the place of deciding which stories can be told," he said.
Pilcher added that he had sympathy for the Bulger family, but felt "Detainment" was deserving of its nomination.
"I think it's a very well-made film," he said.