This was the question posed by filmmaker Vincent Lambe to justify his Oscar nominated film Detainment.
Subsequently, the overriding sentiment from most people was: Yes – provided you have permission from the victim’s family.
Detainment was made using the archived transcripts of interviews with the killers of James Bulger. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were just 10 years old at the time they kidnapped the two year old from a shopping centre and terrorised him before killing him. The transcripts are in the public domain so permission isn’t needed.
However, as many pointed out, common courtesy dictates that you’d at least contact the family and ask for their blessing before you went ahead. This Lambe did not do – and therein lies the main issue for most people.
As the mother of a two year old at the time, my sympathies lie entirely with Denise Bulger and what she went through then, and what she is going through again now.
Another Twitter user took umbrage that I’d dared to express my opinion on the matter and after a long conversation, pointed out that I’m a screenwriter and they hoped karma would get me, by way of a project I’d spent hundreds of hours on being withdrawn.
I pointed out that it wouldn’t happen* – because I would never even begin to write a screenplay about such a sensitive subject without having got the relevant parties on board.
I guess for those who don’t remember this case – too young, outside of the UK, perhaps – it’s hard to understand why there is such a backlash against this film. But I do. I can remember the atrocities that small innocent boy suffered without needing to look it up.
For me, this is the side of a true story that simply didn’t need telling again.
*Sadly, the nature of the film and TV industry means there are many projects whose collaborators put in hundreds of hours of work for them never to appear. It doesn’t have to be controversial.