The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has said that it will maintain its “neutral” role after the mother of James Bulger called for the removal of a short film about his killers. 

The Oscars said academy members applied their “own judgement” on the film’s merits, and that while it took Denise Fergus’s concerns “very seriously”, the academy “does not in any way influence the voting process”.

Detainment, directed by Vincent Lambe, recreates police interviews with his killers by using transcripts from the original tapes played in court during their trial.

Download the new Independent Premium app

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

Mrs Fergus said she was haunted by some of the imagery in the film and called on the academy to remove it from next month’s ceremony or for Lambe to withdraw it.

In a statement the academy said it “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.”

“Following longstanding foundational principles established to maintain the integrity of the awards, the academy does not in any way influence the voting process,” it added.

Detainment was voted on by academy members. 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.”

An online petition calling on the film to be dropped from the Academy Awards in Los Angeles on 24 February has attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

Fergus made a tearful plea on ITV earlier this week, saying: “He [Vincent Lambe] should remove it from the Oscars. Remove it from the public domain – withdraw yourself.”

But Lambe, whose film is nominated for Best Live Action Short Film, told the BBC: “I won’t withdraw it from the Oscars. 

“It’s like saying we should burn every copy of it,” he added. “I think it would defeat the purpose of making the film.”

Detainment recreates the moments before and after James’s murder using transcripts of police interviews with killers Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. 

The two-year-old was killed by the pair, both aged 10, after they kidnapped him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993. 

Lambe had previously apologised for not making Ms Fergus aware of the film sooner. He said he wanted to make the documentary to “try and make sense of what happened”. 

“The public opinion at the moment now is that those two boys were simply evil and anybody who says anything different, or gives an alternate reason as to why they did it or tries to understand why they did it, they get criticised.”