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Forbidden Lie$ is an Australian documentary released in September 2007. It was directed by Anna Broinowski.
Norma Khouri, author of the book Forbidden Love, purportedly the true story of "Dalia", a young Muslim woman in Jordan murdered by her family in an honor killing because of her affair with a Christian soldier. The documentary first depicts Khouri as a woman bravely exposing a brutal and true story. Eventually, her account is challenged, first by Jordanians, then by Malcolm Knox, an Australian journalist. Ironically, Khouri's first critics are Jordanian women: feminists who, when interviewed, take issue with her western perspectives of Muslim women as victims with no control over their lives.
Khouri's descriptions of geography and certain locales in Jordan are wrong. Her statements of restrictions requiring women to wear the hijab and having male escorts when they travel outside the home clash with urban scenes of women walking unescorted and uncovered. Nobody living on the street where Dalia was said to reside remembers such a crime ever happening. Dalia's father could not have remained out on bail pending his prosecution because murderers in Jordan are not given bail, nor are they tried in Shariah court. While parts of the Palestine hospital where Khouri says Dalia's body had been taken are found to match writeups in the book, others are inaccurate, including her description of the morgue.
As the film progresses, it begins to reveal other inconsistencies in Khouri's biography, as well as allegations against her unrelated to Forbidden Love, including the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonds from an elderly woman neighbor in Chicago. Khouri is also found to have lied about her real name, having children and about living in the United States for much of her life, including during the periods of time covered in the book when she claimed to be in Jordan.
Stubbornly maintaining her writing to be factual (though eventually admitting to the use of literary license), Khouri journeys with the filmmakers to Jordan to prove Dalia and her murder were real. With Khouri unwilling to disclose specific information about Dalia on camera, the documentary's director lets her do so off camera. When Khouri's allegations fail to find support in official Jordanian records, she counters with the charge they were altered to protect innocent people from reprisal. Then, after initially saying Dalia was slain in Amman, Khouri is forced to "reveal" that it actually was in Irbid. Khouri also changes when the murder occurred, shifting the events from the 1990s to 2001. This timing proves to be critical because that would mean the killing of Dalia took place after Khouri had already written most of her manuscript.
Once Khouri returns from Jordan, not having found any concrete evidence to back up her claims, the focus of the documentary shifts to the allegations against Khouri, especially the ones involving fraud. Khouri shifts blame for stealing from the neighbor to her Greek mother in law and her husband, John Toliopoulos, even as he constantly champions for her throughout the film. (Earlier, Toliopoulos expresses hopes for rejoining his wife in America; this is intercut with Khouri stating their marriage has been over for some time.) Khouri also claims to have been sexually molested as a child by her father.
The film draws to a close with Khouri having admitted no wrongdoing and still living apart from her husband. Closing titles indicate that the FBI continues to investigate allegations against Khouri, and she hopes to become a human rights attorney.
The tone of the documentary is largely a skeptical one. Certain events are reenacted while the respective parties weigh their truthfulness, with the event being altered on screen to reflect the differences between Khouri's own words and reality. (In one scene, Dalia's brutal murder is dramatized on screen, ending with the actors involved rising and laughing, including the one playing the victim.)
Awards and nominations
On 22 January 2008, Forbidden Lie$ won Best Documentary in the Australian Film Critics Association awards for 2007.
On 24 April 2008, Forbidden Lie$ won the "Golden Al Jazeera award" for a long film at the 4th annual Al Jazeera Documentary Festival.
On 16 October 2008, Forbidden Lie$ won Best Documentary and special prize of Cinema Historians and Critics Guildin of Russia in the Kazan International festival of Muslim Cinema awards for 2008.
Forbidden Lie$ grossed $401,027 at the box office in Australia.
- Forbidden Lies at the Internet Movie Database
- Review of Forbidden Lie$ by Variety