review

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The Independent Culture
It's a good title, The Day That Changed My Life (BBC2), with its false suggestion that human destiny can hinge on a single moment. It's mostly a lie, of course, but it's a tantalising one, rich in anecdotal promise. It offers the same thrill of imminent change exploited by that T-shirt which promises that "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" (being a lazy person I favour the "Tomorrow" version, which gives me a day to gather my strength before any vigorous exercise of will-power).

In truth, though, previous episodes of the series have had some difficulty establishing exactly when the momentous day was; last week for instance, in a powerful programme about the rigours of living with an autistic child, you couldn't quite tell whether it was childbirth that counted, or the day that Laurence Jones's mother discovered that he wouldn't look her in the eye anymore, or the day his disability was officially diagnosed. That he had changed her life - from happy normality to a gruelling timetable of damage limitation and hard labour - wasn't in doubt, but it looked like a more gradual process than the title promised.

The central figure in last night's episode, "Making Sense of the Nonsense", could offer a slightly sharper chronology: one day in May 1991 Paul Duffus went out of the house where he lived with his strict Pentecostal Christian family and returned as Faisal Abdu' Allah. He kept this alteration to himself but his mother, as mothers do, noticed the little giveaway details. "What are those things Paul is wearing?" she asked her husband, "the white robes and the little round hat like the Pope?". Not the Pope's millinery style as it turned out, but that favoured by quite a few imams; Paul had converted to Islam. Now he engages in noisy theological debate over the family dinner table, trying to convince his sceptical relatives that his faith isn't just a fad.

Had it simply been about Faisal, Jackie Osei-Tutu's film might have been a little limited - the privacies of transcendent belief don't exactly translate well to the screen and the explanations for such a radical transformation were a little thin. Faisal seemed to want structure and discipline in his life - but then the Pentecostal Church isn't a notoriously liberal establishment, so why did he feel the need to stray so far from home? Some clues were offered by the film's more general exploration of Islam's attraction for young blacks. As well as talking to Faisal about his conversion, they had filmed Islamic Action proselytising in colleges. It seems that the faith comes with an introductory free gift - an alternative, non-European history.

"Your ancestors were kings and queens on the Nile!" exclaimed one Islamic missionary to a room full of impassive urban youths, a line which has a manifest attraction to it. "They're looking for something that's going to offer them manhood," explained another contributor, but it was obvious that a career in the army wouldn't quite fit the bill here. The word "enemy" occurred more than once in his pitch, and he wasn't talking about Satan, but about white society. Islam offers a way both to rebel and obey at one and the same time.

The priest in Coronation Street (ITV) broke the news to Don gently, "Ivy's not in a position to ask anyone for anything... she's not in this world". You half expected him to carry on, in parrot-sketch manner: "Her contract has expired... she has been expunged from the cast list... she is available for pantomime". Don took it very hard, which was a little odd given that Ivy has been a stone in his shoe for many months now. Of course you didn't expect him to dance a little jig, but it was still surprising that the episode - a grand death scene without a body - ended with him gasping out remorsefully, "Ivy's dead... I killed her". Then again, if this is a confession, they might be onto something big.

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