TELEVISION / The loneliness of the long-distance runner: James Rampton watches Rushdie on the move, four years on; plus Adventures, Screen Two and The South Bank Show

IT cannot be much fun to have to go to the lavatory with a posse of Special Branch officers in tow. But that's what life is like for Salman Rushdie: In the Shadow of the Fatwa (Sunday C4). In such seemingly mundane details, Udi Eichler's film effectively captured the captured writer's loneliness. Rushdie's four years in hiding have, for instance, honed his skills at Nintendo. In a blackly comic sequence, he enthused about his ability to zap his enemies with fire-balls.

In telling the history of the fatwa, issued on Valentine's Day 1989, the documentary relied rather too heavily on the 'floating screens' montage effect. It worked better playing it straight - as when Rushdie, in a darkened room, read direct to camera from his journal. He told of people clutching his arm and wishing him well in a pub two days after the death sentence was decreed. And as the world's press hunted for him high and low, he was holed up in a country hotel room next to a Daily Mirror reporter too preoccupied with his dirty weekend to notice his neighbour.

Two days after the Iranian government reiterated that the fatwa is irreversible, this film was a timely reminder of Rushdie's plight; not an angry punch in the face, just a gentle tap on the shoulder.

A more light-hearted news story recently told of a young man's carnal affair with the family Austin Metro. Early on in Adventures (Saturday C4) a no-nonsense gricer dispelled any fanciful notions that steam enthusiasts enjoyed a similar relationship with engines. Spotting steam engines is 'very thrilling', he confided, 'but I wouldn't say there was anything kinky in it.'

'Steaming Passions' was bubbling over with such entertaining moments. Reporter Nigel Farrell blew the whistle on the sexism of some steam buffs. A devotee declared that one always calls engines 'she' because they are 'temperamental'. However, Farrell's affectionate documentary will have done much to rehabilitate the image of the anorak-wearing, fish-paste-sandwich- eating brigade. As the film was keen to emphasise, it is now as much a sorority as a fraternity.

A cloud of steam - from a saucepan, not an engine - heralded the entrance of Maddalena, the Femme Fatale in Screen Two (Sunday BBC2). In this macabre comedy by the prolific Simon Gray, a nave Sicilian girl (Sophia Diaz) was unwittingly responsible for as many corpses as Don Corleone - as if to stress the point, a guitarist played The Godfather theme in the bar where Maddalena worked.

The film offered some killing jokes as the inhabitants of a normally reserved Devon village - the ironically named Meryton - went all Sicilian over the femme fatale. Simon Callow (retreading his jolly vicar from Room with a View) helped out the Catholic young woman by hearing her confession through a front-page of the Times emblazoned with a picture of the Pope. But Femme Fatale shared too many traits with its central character: lovely to look at, promising many delights, but ultimately leaving you unfulfilled.

Through her snapping of femmes fatales, photographer Annie Leibovitz has become as acclaimed as many of her celebrity subjects. Belinda Allen's profile of her for The South Bank Show (Sunday ITV) made for a textbook chronicle of American popular culture over the past 20 years.

The programme had unearthed many fossils from the Seventies - such as Leibovitz's long-time collaborator, Dr Hunter S Thompson. In an extraordinary interview at his remote home in Woody Creek, Colorado, the good doctor failed to muster coherent recollections of the previous day, let alone previous decades. Even the bizarre background squealing of a neighbour's pig caught in a 'mechanical nutcracker' could not jog his deeply drug-damaged memory.

The documentary waved through a few 'live fast, die young' rock 'n' roll cliches without so much as a road- check. Leibovitz claimed that on the 1975 Stones tour 'I almost lost my soul'. (Mick Jagger, for his part, reckoned that having to take so many crotch-shots of the band turned the photographer into a feminist.) But, in the main, this South Bank Show took an uncharacteristically sceptical view of celebrity. How else could you explain the scene in which a Leibovitz aide detailed the sites they had in reserve for a Demi Moore shoot . . . five Bel Air houses, four hotel rooms, three mobile homes, two state beaches . . . everything bar a partridge in a pear tree.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor