In 2004, journalist Malcom Knox exposed Norma Khouri's 2001 best-selling memoir Forbidden Love as a fake. In it, she described the honour killing of a female friend in Jordan.


1 Jan 2009 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 13 Nov 2020 - 10:35 AM
A riveting, compelling character study.

Few would not be vaguely aware of the scandal that erupted around author Norma Khouri. The Jordanian exile had written a best-selling memoir about honour killings in her homeland. Khouri’s best friend Dalia was murdered when her family discovered that the Muslim woman had fallen in love with a Christian man. The book, Forbidden Love, was published in several languages and become an international sensation. Khouri moved to Queensland to escape a fatwah, but when news broke that her story was not all it appeared to be, the knives came out. It was alleged that Khouri had left Jordan at the age of three and that her book was riddled with factual errors: she was not even in the country at the time of Dalia’s death. The fatwah was merely the grumblings of social workers. The book was retracted, and Khouri’s reputation was in tatters.

Esteemed filmmaker Anna Broinowski sought to sift truth from spin. She travels with Khouri to address the allegations, and as layers of argument are peeled away, more are revealed. Who is the real Norma Khouri? Victim or criminal, author or actor? What starts as an apparent character assassination quickly turns into the riveting study of a person driven to any lengths to get what they want. Yet there’s a playful, mischievous tone to the film. Khouri talks from in front of a proscenium arch and succumbs to a lie-detector test. Covers of songs 'Smooth Operator' and 'She’s Not There' lend weight, and perhaps another type of spin, to the emerging truth.

Wildly entertaining and utterly compelling, Forbidden Lie$ is the documentary version of an airport novel – one you can’t take your eyes off.

Exciting, involving and inventively structured, Forbidden Lie$ is compelling from beginning to end, and feels more like a thriller than a documentary.

Filmink 4/5


Watch 'Forbidden Lie$'

Monday 23 November, 1:55am on SBS

NOTE: No catch-up at SBS On Demand

Australia, 2007
Genre: Documentary, Drama
Language: English
Director: Anna Broinowski

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