Last Night's TV - True Stories: For Neda, More4; Three Men Go to Venice, BBC2

A woman of substance

Perhaps the most eloquent testimony to the power of the mobile-phone footage of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan – the young Iranian woman shot while protesting in Tehran – were the lies told about it by the Iranian government. The first official announcement was that Neda wasn't dead at all. Then the CIA was accused of shooting her to foment unrest. Then they accused the BBC of orchestrating the whole affair. Then they said that it was a fake anyway. And finally they "revealed" that she'd been killed by the doctor who'd gone to her side and the music teacher who'd been protesting with her. On this account – by some distance the most grotesque fiction yet – Neda had been an actress, equipped with stage blood, and she'd been murdered after the event to prevent details of the plot from leaking out.

The truth was far simpler. She'd been shot by some state goon and the image of her murder had distilled the confrontation unfolding in Tehran into just a few seconds of jolting video; a collision of peaceful protest with the vicious intransigence of a theocracy. In her death, Neda literally became the poster girl for the uprising, her face reprinted on placards and masks, her name invoked everywhere to reheat and focus public anger. And her dying was seen all over the world, by presidents and leaders as well as YouTube browsers. Antony Thomas's True Stories film, For Neda, set out to give that shockingly raw footage some context, offering backstory both for Neda and the regime that had killed her.

It was a film that came with medals pinned to its chest (Foreign Press Association Documentary of the Year, among others) and that, initially at least, hovered hazardously close to hagiography. "When I went into her bedroom I thought, 'Neda used to walk here every day'," said Saeed Kamali Dehgan, the courageous Iranian reporter who had gone undercover to record interviews with Neda's family. The reverential implication that she had been martyred for freedom did not sit very easily with the knowledge that, a year on, the Iranian people seem no closer to getting it. But as the film continued, the fear that it might privilege wishful thinking over hard, unpalatable fact faded away. It offered a portrait of a young woman who was remarkable for reasons other than her very public death, and of a regime defined by a violent misogyny.

Azar Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, pointed out that all of the regime's most reactionary laws pertain to the control of women. A woman's life and legal testimony is officially weighed at half that of a man's and only men can initiate divorce. Even the way a woman is executed is harsher – men sentenced to be stoned are buried to their waist and released if they can struggle free; women are entitled to the same loophole but are buried to the breast, with their arms trapped, to ensure that they cannot take advantage of it. A lesser, but ubiquitous, humiliation involves the monitoring of women's public appearance by the licensed bullies of the Basij, Iran's morality police. It seems Neda wasn't an acquiescent member of the compulsory nunnery that Iran became after the revolution, arguing about what she was entitled to wear to school, and ignoring the regime's literary prohibitions against such dangerously inflammatory texts as Wuthering Heights. She was, both her father and sister recalled, fearless in expressing her opinions, and so when people erupted in the wake of rigged elections, furious that they wouldn't even be allowed an insultingly compromised choice (of 475 candidates who put their names forward to stand against Ahmadinejad only three were given permission), there was nowhere else she was going to be but on the streets.

She was warned that her looks would make her a target: "I know the danger of beauty to these men," a female Basij told her, urging her to stay at home. But despite the increasing violence of the regime's enforcers she continued marching. "If I don't go out, who will?" she told her anxious mother just before she was killed. Though some of the things said here about citizen journalism and social networking seemed a little over-optimistic in the light of continuing repression in Iran, that simple recognition that you can't outsource the defence of your own freedom was genuinely inspiring. Maybe it's not over yet.

Three Men Go to Venice should really have been called "Three Men Go to the Balkans", but – if we're to believe Griff Rhys Jones – the BBC thought that wouldn't sound appealing enough. I don't want to question his veracity – because he's got a temper on him, by all accounts – but I'm increasingly unsure whether to believe anything in this overstretched travelogue franchise. Everyone's generally at pains to make the journey sound accidental and provisional, but that doesn't sound compatible with a busy filming schedule, so it's hard to avoid the feeling that most of the coincidences have been carefully arranged for months. Last night they made their way up the Dalmatian coast, spending time on Tito's motor yacht and the only other vessel in the Montenegrin navy – a sail training boat, before "hitching a lift" to Croatia with a holiday flotilla. "We don't often have fun on these things," said Rory McGrath in tones of faint surprise, after he and Dara O Briain had taken time out for a game of five-a-side in Dubrovnik. Not you either, eh? You could always stop.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?