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Forbidden Lies - Movie Review - 2009

Nonfiction About A Con Artist's Fiction

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Forbidden Lies - Movie Review - 2009

Forbidden Lies Poster Art

Roxie Releasing
In Forbidden Lies, filmmaker Anna Broinowski investigates the case of Norma Khouri Bagain, a Jordanian women who wrote the best selling Forbidden Love, a supposedly nonfiction book about an 'honor killing' that allegedly took place in Amman. Forbidden Love book was interpreted by many Jordanians, including prominent women, as an misrepresentation of Islam. As the book's errors and impossibilities were pointed out, Khouri's story and reputation began to fall apart. Broinowski follows Khouri who, under a cloud of accusations, attempts to explain her actions and motives.

Questioning Many Witnesses

Broinowski finds and interviews a wide range of people who've been watching Khouri. There are Jordanian officials, Khouri's friends and family, investigative journalists on several continents and the FBI. Khouri constantly respins her story to fit new information that the investigation reveals, but many of those who are interviewed are sure that the writer, whose real name turns out to be Bagain, is an exceptionally clever con artist. Broinkowski, who appears in the film as both Khouri's interrogator and her advocate, does a great job of creating layers of reality that are revealed in surprising, gripping ways, making this documentary a true life thriller.

Is Khouri Victim or Perp?

Just when you're sure you know whether Khouri is a crusader for women's rights, a manipulative liar, a seeker of fame and fortune or a psychopath, the Khouri story and the lead character's behavior take a spin in a new direction, and you're guessing again. Both Khouri and Broinowski are smart and convincing. Often, they seem to be playing cat and mouse, but you're never sure who's claimed which role. Theirs is a compelling competition of wits, and the film will command your attention from start to finish.

Interesting Storytelling Elements

Broinowski's dramatizations throughout the film recreate characters and circumstances of the alleged 'honor killing.' Visits to sites in Chicago, Jordan, Greece and other spots give a sense of this story's scope. Details presented by the FBI indicate the serious accusations of Fraud levied against Khouri/Bagain. Hard to believe at times that it's true. But it is.

The Broader View

As background to the Khouri story, Broinowski presents the broader view of the treatment of women in the Middle East. Jordanians don't deny the existence of 'honor killings' of women who've 'shamed their families' by falling in love with someone of the wrong religion or social class. But they deny it's widespread, and that women are treated as inferiors in Islam. That is, of course, a very heated debate, a necessary discussion that is stimulated by this true life thriller.

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Film Details:

  • Release Date: September, 2007 (Australia); April 10, 2009, USA, limited
  • Running Time: 104 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: Australia, USA, Greece, Jordan
  • Language: English, Arabic, with English subtitles
  • Company: Roxie Releasing

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