TELEVISION / Doing time with Cape Town's Krays

BELOVED Country (BBC 2) is busy besmirching the good name of the National Geographic Society, and not before time if you ask me. It used to be the case that if you saw that name in the production credit was because you had just endured an anodyne wildlife film or a coffee-table travelogue about somebody who wants to bungee-jump off the Victoria Falls. Not this time. Beloved Country is unblinkingly nasty when it needs to be; anyone given to simplistic statements about the future of South Africa should be made to sit down and watch all three of the episodes that have been transmitted so far.

One of the principal virtues of the films is their patience. They resist the hit-and-run method of much documentary filming, returning over the period of a year to build a picture of their subjects which is then structured chronologically. There are some risks here - television craves novelty and narrative progression but the truth of most people's private lives is that one month is much like another. Signalling the passage of the months reminds you of that fact and, just occasionally, can make the films seem overlong. 'We've seen that already,' you think. 'He was saying the same thing in January.'

On the other hand, public life in South Africa is changing every day and the subject of the series is the way the two are inseparable, the way in which public events insinuate themselves into private pleasures or ambitions. Here the formal structure of the films can throw up fruitful repetitions. The assassination of Chris Hani, for example, was central both to the film about a black ballroom dancer living in Soweto and to last week's programme, about a prosperous rural farmer trying to desegregate his beloved rugby club.

The rugby film was a gem, incidentally - richly ambiguous in its portrayal of a white conservative's stumbling attempts at communication and illuminating about the extent of the gap that has to be closed. Last night's film was almost as good, a startling account of gang warfare on the Coloured council estate of Manenberg. Rashied and Rashad are Cape Town's equivalent of the Kray brothers, fighting turf wars, bribing policemen and administering rough justice to anyone unlucky enough to cross their path.

'Some want to rape him, some want to burn his tattoos off. They want to sodomise him and I don't think it's a good idea,' said Rashied of a rival gang-member who had been kidnapped and was being interrogated, grey with fear. Later, a gang-member accused of molesting his sister was beaten in front of the cameras, screeching in terror as his arm was broken. The law rarely interrupts this calendar of brutality. For a time it looked as if Rashad might end up in jail for dealing in Mandrax tablets but when the cameras returned a little later he was still there, and all his lieutenants had better cars. Rashied was in trouble too, for murdering a man, but seemed unperturbed about his prospects - 'I shall kill the witness too,' he said, chuckling a little. The ANC, God help it, is just beginning to come to terms with the fact that this urban wildlife will be its responsibility after the elections.

After the unveiling of Honey for Tea and Men of the World it's a relief to report that Outside Edge (ITV) is funny, beautifully acted and graceful in its comedy. There's something awful about being begged for a laugh by a sitcom - they're often in such desperate plight that one doesn't like to refuse, but do they really deserve it? Outside Edge is quite different - no frantic plotting, no laugh-track, none of those posturing performances that tug pleadingly at your funny bone.

Brenda Blethyn plays Miriam, a put-upon cricket widow being coaxed towards insurrection by Josie Lawrence's earthy Maggie. Her own relationship with the ghastly Roger consists of fake affection and genuine rancour; that of Maggie and Kevin (Timothy Spall), on the other hand, is one of fake rancour and genuine passion. Roger Harris's adaptation of his own stage play leaves the laughter up to you and as a result you give generously.

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
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.

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game