Synopsis: Norma Khouri is a thief, a saint, a seductress and a sociopath – depending on who is talking. Men want to marry her, Islamic extremists want to kill her, and the global publishing industry wishes she would just disappear. Khouri won fame and fortune with her “true story” Forbidden Love, about a shocking honour killing in Jordan. The book was a runaway bestseller, translated into multiple languages, and Khouri became the toast of the literary world. That was until July 2004, when esteemed Sydney Morning Herald journalist Malcolm Knox exposed her book as a work of fiction. [Synposis courtesy of the film's website.]
Round-up: "Cool-headed, lighthearted and outrageously entertaining, 'Forbidden Lie$' is documentary-as-striptease, a careful peeling of claim and counterclaim to reveal one of the most complex literary scandals of our time," says the New York Times' Jeanette Catsoulis about Anna Broinowski's film, echoing the mostly positive press its received. More praise comes from the Village Voice's Elena Oumano, who writes that "one of 'Forbidden Lie$'s' deepest pleasures is watching Broinowski's struggle to resist her subject as Khouri's story gradually falls apart... Rapid-fire interviews with Khouri's detractors seem to seal the case against her, but then the film's heart—an antic sequence worthy of a Hollywood thriller, in which Khouri persuades Broinowski to take a 'fact-finding' trip to Jordan—raises doubts again. This entertaining, provocative film raises pointed issues about con artists and their sometimes-culpable 'victims,' and also speaks to the elusive pursuit of documentary truth." Variety's Richard Kuipers' resonse to the film is a little cooler. He writes that the "pic stays afloat as long as Khouri, a supreme performer if ever there was one, has the answers. But Broinowski commits the crucial error of hanging around way too long once all key questions have been answered." Susan Gerhard, who covered the film for indieWIRE when it played at the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival, also offered a lukewarm take on the documentary, calling it "compelling, if overlong." Overall, however, the consensus seems to be that this is an entertaining doc with an especially engaging subject at its center. As Mark Pelkert writes in the New York Press: "by the doc’s end, how much of what Norma says is fact or fiction doesn’t matter as much as the entertaining, infuriating journey that Norma (and Broinowski) has taken us on."