CAPSULE: Norma Khouri became an international celebrity telling the story of her friend when she was living in Jordan. The friend, Dalia, was a Muslim who fell in love with a Christian and then was murdered by her own father and brother in an honor killing. But in all probability none of this ever happened. Norma Khouri is (probably) a con artist supreme. Documentary writer/director Anna Broinowski investigates Khouri's stories and her background and finds a bizarre story that grows ever more complex in Khouri's telling. This is a film that would make a great double feature with Lasse Hallstrom's THE HOAX. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Norma Khouri's story is a tragedy. As a Muslim growing up in Amman Jordan, Norma's best friend was Dalia. Neither Norma nor Dalia wanted the life that had been pre-ordained for them by their families. They wanted careers, not just to be married off to men they did not choose and probably would not love. As one of the few careers that were open to them, they opened a beauty shop. After that Dalia did find herself falling in love. But the man was not one who would have been approved by her family. In fact the man was not even a Muslim. He was a Christian soldier. Dalia knew that if her father found out about the relationship it could go very bad for her. Her father believed that he was the guardian of virtue for his family. Dalia's love for a Christian would make her father very angry, and he would undoubtedly believe that it would destroy the honor of the family. So Dalia kept her love a secret from her family. One day Norma went to see Dalia only to find that Dalia was dead. Dalia's family had found out about Dalia's love and murdered her with knives. When Norma saw her dead friend laying in the morgue, Norma decided she no longer could live with her family and could no longer even live in Jordan. She fled for her life and wrote the story of the incident in book form.
That is Norma Khouri's story. She submitted it to an Australian publisher who released it widely. The book known as FORBIDDEN LOVE or HONOR LOST became a bestseller in several languages and several countries. Norma Khouri's story took great courage to bring to the world the story of Muslim honor killings. Or perhaps a better word would be that it took great "chutzpah." The story was (probably) totally fabricated by Khouri. Khouri had a history as a confidence trickster and though she denied the truth for a long time, the book is likely a total fabrication.
Writer/director Anna Broinowski delves into the life of Khouri, taking her camera to Australia, England, Chicago, and Amman. As Broinowski investigates she finds more and more contradictions in Khouri's version of the truth. And each time an inconsistency is found, with a straight face Khouri adds more to the story and makes it more complex. Each contradiction is patched with a new story tailor-made to win the sympathies of the listener. Soon the investigation turns up a story involving an elderly neighbor whom Khouri (probably) conned out of half a million dollars. Khouri claims that she was forced to steal that money and the story goes off in the direction of rape and incest. Yet she has a talent to tell her stories with a straight and attractive face that makes you momentarily want to believe her. By the end of the film Khouri's story is nothing like it started out.
FORBIDDEN LIE$ is amusing and frustrating. But it is undeniably entertaining and one gets a certain amazement at the creativity of Khouri's mind under pressure--much the same quality that Clifford Irving has in THE HOAX. I rate FORBIDDEN LIE$ a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0790808/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/forbidden_lies/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper