CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Why not tell us the whole story about Nazanin’s hostage ordeal?
A Town Called Malice
Richard Ratcliffe is a tenaciously steadfast husband. For more than five years, he waged a dogged, devoted campaign to win freedom for his wife, Nazanin, held hostage in a Tehran prison.
Through hunger strikes, newspaper interviews, demonstrations and face-to-face appeals to politicians, he pushed his family’s nightmarish plight into the headlines and kept it there.
No one who watched Nazanin (Ch4) could fail to be moved as he allowed the cameras to follow him, bringing up their daughter, Gabriella, in London and living from one phone call to the next with his wife in jail.
She was falsely accused of spying in 2016, after visiting her Iranian parents.
But the documentary, directed and produced by Darius Bazargan, failed to put this heart-wrenching story in its real context.
The emotional reunion of mother and daughter after Nazanin was released by the Iranian authorities
The family pose outside Number 10 after Nazanin’s release. She was falsely accused of spying in 2016, after visiting her Iranian parents
We were repeatedly told that Nazanin was a pawn in wrangles over a £400 million debt after a 1970s UK arms deal was revoked.
Yet nothing at all was said about the horrendous human rights abuses in Iran, the murder of young women who dare to protest, the nuclear weapons programme and the threats to destroy Israel, or the Tehran government’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Left-wing journalist Duncan Campbell stated: ‘Nazanin under arrest and in prison is a direct result of British corruption 40 years ago.’
To listen to him, you might imagine the key to saving Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was simple.
The UK had only to return the money paid by the Shah of Iran before his overthrow in 1979, for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered.
No mention was made of the stringent sanctions currently in place. Iran is a pariah state.
Are we meant to forget that and hand over nearly half a billion pounds, money that could fund further atrocious human rights crimes, because we cannot bear to think of a mother in prison?
Other brutal regimes will know in future just how to extort money from the British government.
Richard Ratcliffe was right and admirable in everything he did in his long battle to bring his wife home.
That doesn’t make it wise to pay a political ransom — nor excuse the Foreign Office for advising Nazanin to sign a full confession before she was released.
In the end, it was left to seven-year-old Gabriella to voice the only doubts. Told her mummy was coming home, she replied, ‘What if it’s all a trick?’
Historic corruption, extortion and dodgy deals are played for lurid entertainment in A Town Called Malice (Sky Max), a gangland soap opera set on the Costa del Sol.
Its 1980s pop soundtrack is impeccable, right down to the Radio 1 jingle with ‘Oooh, Gary Davies’.
But the cast look exactly what they are — 21st-century actors in Thatcher-era clobber.
The big shoulders are worn with no conviction at all, and hero Gene (Jack Rowan) can hardly walk with his pullover tucked into his skinny jeans.
A Town Called Malice (Sky Max) is a gangland soap opera set on the Costa del Sol that follows a crime family of petty thieves
Gene’s dad growls at him down the phone, ‘Listen to me, that copper didn’t make it. It’s a murder charge now’ in A Town Called Malice
From left to right: Eliza Butterworth, Leanne Best, Tahirah Sharif and Martha Plimpton at the A Town Called Malice launch party
The violence is no more convincing. A blunderbuss leaves a neat hole in a crook’s forehead, and being shot in the arm is instantly fatal.
As for the script — Gene’s dad growls at him down the phone, ‘Listen to me, that copper didn’t make it. It’s a murder charge now. Your muvver wants a word.’
With shootouts and nude swims, scrapyard brawls in Bermondsey and crooners in Spanish pubs, this DayGlo drama amounts to a remake of Gangs Of London, starring the cast of Benidorm.
Whether the cheesiness is deliberate, I can’t make up my mind — and I don’t care. Get me a pint of Carling Black Label and a bag of Scampi Fries . . . I’m binge-watching this one.
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