Forbidden Lies


Directed by: Anna Broinowski
Released: September 13, 2007
Grade: A

In 2003, a book called Forbidden Love was released across the globe.  It told the story of a young woman who was murdered in Jordan by her family for falling in love with a Christian man (as opposed to a Muslim).  The author was Norma Khouri, a friend of the girl who was killed.  Khouri wanted the world to know about this tragedy and other “honour killings” that have taken place in Jordan.

The book certainly made an impact.  It sold more than 250,000 copies and was a major news story.  Khouri appeared on talk shows and became somewhat of a celebrity.  People wanted to know even more about this shocking atrocity.

What happened next was equally as shocking.  In July 2004, Malcolm Knox of the Sydney Morning Herald published a front page story that exposed Norma Khouri as a fraud.  He claimed that Khouri wasn’t in Jordan at the time that the killing occurred and that many other parts of her story were dubious.  Knox’s claims made international news and it won him the 2004 Walkley Award for investigative journalism in Australia.

The above details are covered in the first half-hour of Forbidden Lies, a riveting documentary from Australian filmmaker Anna Broinowski.  What follows in the next 75 minutes will leave you utterly amazed.  Khouri’s story has more twists and turns than a Hollywood thriller.  If it wasn’t real then I wouldn’t have believed it.

What is most remarkable about this documentary is that Norma Khouri agreed to appear in it.  Her whole life is being scrutinised and yet she is there to defend her position.  She’s either brave or crazy.  She has an answer to everything – even when being called a liar by her husband and close friends.

Watching this film is like being in the jury of a major court case.  Everyone has a different version of “the truth” and you have to decide who you’re going to believe and which side you’re going to take.  It’s not just Norma Khouri’s credibility that comes under the microscope.  You’ll be analysing every person who has been interviewed and wondering if they have a hidden agenda.

It’s a gutsy idea for a documentary and Anna Broinowski has done a terrific job in keeping the audience interested.  The story is structured so that each plot development is more stunning than the last.  Further, the interviews are intermingled with re-enacted scenes to help visualise certain events.

I often speak about movies that provide for great conversation afterwards.  Forbidden Lies is a perfect example.  It’s value for money both inside and outside the cinema.