Forbidden Lie$



San Francisco International Film Festival

SAN FRANCISCO -- "You can't hit a moving target" would be the perfect tagline for Australian filmmaker Anna Broinowski's riveting, near flawless documentary, "Forbidden Lie$," an irresistible examination of pathological liar and decidedly small time, master manipulator, Norma Khouri, a con woman who never met a lie she didn't turn to her advantage. The well-crafted, briskly paced film handily proves that truth is indeed stranger than fiction and often more entertaining. Playing like a narrative thriller consumed with intrigue, petty crime and deception, this is one of the most watchable docs to come along in a while. Although it will be successful on the festival circuit and deserves a wider audience that it could find on cable, its prospects for an art house run are slim, given the disappointing box office performance of recent docs.

Khouri registered on the radar, in 2004, after the publication of "Forbidden Love, her purported "memoir" of the Islamic honor killing of Dalia, her Jordanian friend. Never mind that Dalia didn't exist, there was no killing and Khouri wasn't in Jordan at the time, she seized the main chance and cast herself as champion of oppressed women until the hoax was uncovered by an Australian journalist. She duped her publisher, a clutch of journalists and lied to the filmmaker who has a devil of a time pinning down her elusive quarry, also wanted by the FBI for bilking an old lady out of savings Khouri used for breast augmentation. In the intricate, somewhat drawn out second half of the film, Broinowski journeys to Jordan with Khouri, who changes her story whenever an inconvenient truth arises and presents herself as the injured party. When the facts don't add up, she delivers another impenetrable web of lies that the tenacious filmmaker tries to unravel.

Broinowski utilizes visual gimmicks, reenactments and ironic counterpoint on the soundtrack to spice up the talking heads footage. These are unnecessary embellishments with a central figure as repugnant and mesmerizing as Khouri, though one may have the urge to take a shower after spending quality time with this charming, reflexively exploitive, sociopath-next-door.

Production company: Liberty Productions and Film Finance Corp. Australia in association with New South Wales Film & Television Office, South Australian Film Corp., Adelaide Film Festival and Palace Films.

Director: Anna Broinowski.
Screenwriters: Anna Broinowski.
Executive producers: Antonio Zeccola
Producer: Sally Regan, Anna Broinowski
Director of photography: Kathryn Milliss, Toby Oliver.
Production designer: Robert Webb.
Music: Max Sharam
Costume designer: not listed.
Editor: Alison Croft, Vanessa Milton.
Sales Agent: Becker International, Sydney
No MPAA rating, 106 minutes.

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