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
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
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.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home