Published May 09, 2007In the dark days after 9/11, a memoir entitled Forbidden Love swept the publishing world. This personal account by author Norma Khouri detailed the ugly tradition of honour killing in Jordan; Khouri explained how her girlfriend was murdered by her own father for dating a man who was not pre-ordained as her husband.
Forbidden Love was translated into more than a dozen languages, made Khouri an international celebrity and reinforced Western stereotypes about barbaric Arab men. Fearing reprisals in Jordan, Khouri moved to Australia. The story should have ended there. Instead, a respected Jordanian journalist started scrutinising the facts in the non-fiction book and uncovered a long litany of errors and blunders. That process exposed Khouri, a 34-year-old Jordanian virgin, as Norma Bagain, a Chicago mother of two whos married to a shady Greek playboy. From there, more lies were uncovered, as well as questions: did Normas friend really die? Did she even exist? Is Norma wanted by the F.B.I.? What for? Did her father really abuse her?
Director Broinowski delivers a masterful piece of storytelling that unwinds like a top-notch mystery. Just when Broinowski uncovers one lie another one springs up, as if the filmmaker is unlocking an endless succession of hidden doors. Just where does the truth lie?
Hot Docs audiences raved about Forbidden Lie$, partly because of the entertaining cinematic style and the directors drive, but also because of Khouri, who seems to enjoy rebuffing Broinowskis challenges; its like two boxers sparring in the ring.
Ultimately, the film exposes Khouri as a con artist, one who revels in telling lie after lie, perhaps losing track of her own reality in the process. Norma begins the film as a hero and ends it as a blank. A cipher, a swindler, a liar. (AFFC)