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With: Norma Khouri
Written by: Anna Broinowski
Directed by: Anna Broinowski
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 106
Date: 02/25/2007

Forbidden Lie$ (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

A Reason to Deceive

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Anna Broinowski's Forbidden Lie$ is a revelation: it's one of the few recent documentaries that actually uses the cinematic form as part of its substance. It tells the story of author Jordanian-born Norma Khouri, who published the book "Forbidden Love" (a.k.a. "Honor Lost") in 2003. It apparently became something of a bestseller (although to look at today, it looks more like a failure). The book purported to tell the non-fiction story of Norma's best friend Dahlia, who was "honor killed" by her Jordanian family for falling in love with a Christian man. When the book began selling, Australian journalist Malcolm Knox and various Jordanian experts began scrutinizing the book -- and Norma -- and finding several flaws, leading them to conclude that the entire work was false. So filmmaker Broinowski tracks down Norma and asks her to respond to these charges. Norma does, but keeps layering more lies upon lies; she keeps justifying herself by claiming that the family of the real "Dahlia" would be in danger if she revealed the truth, and that the publishers insisted she change certain facts. Her accusers get the chance to watch her interview footage and respond, and then Norma gets to watch these responses and respond. The apex of the film has the filmmaker accompanying Norma back to Jordan on a fact-finding trip. Broinowski digs deeper and deeper but only finds herself in a hole, rather than getting closer to the truth. This is as it should be: more documentaries need to acknowledge the fact that no film can ever claim to accurately represent anything. Yet the film is anything but disappointing. Norma becomes a fascinating character (kind of sexy, too), and she's so seductive and convincing that you fight to try to believe her. The movie seems to like her, too, but refuses to succumb to any kind of con game. Forbidden Lie$ opens at the Roxie Cinema for a San Francisco run.

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