Forbidden Lie$ Explores Con Artist Lies and Documentary Truth


In 2003, 35-year-old Jordanian virgin Norma Khouri published Forbidden Love, her bestselling memoir recounting a Muslim friend’s murder by her father for falling in love with a Christian man. A year later, Khouri was revealed to be a fraud, a married mother of two from Chicago, not Jordan, wanted by the FBI for scamming an elderly neighbor. In an attempt to vindicate herself, Khouri persuaded first-time documentarian Anna Broinowski to suss out “the truth.” At first, Broinowski seems as captivated by Khouri’s cunning and charisma as her victims were, and one of Forbidden Lie$‘s deepest pleasures is watching Broinowski’s struggle to resist her subject as Khouri’s story gradually falls apart. The first half-hour follows Khouri reading from her book to besotted audiences, as Broinowski illustrates the passages with playful re-enactments, often blue-screening Khouri into a scene. 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.

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