Saturday, October 06, 2007

Boring lies

On Saturday night I saw Forbidden Lie$ with some friends. An investigation of the disgraced author Norma Khouri, whose book Forbidden Love (US title: Honor Lost) sold hundreds of thousands of copies and claimed to tell the true story of a shocking honour killing of a close friend, a Jordanian Muslim woman murdered by her family for falling in love with a Christian. Khouri actively campaigned from self-imposed exile for the liberalisation of Jordanian laws regarding such crimes.

However, a year after its release, Khouri's story was discredited by Malcolm Knox, a SMH journalist, who discovered that the author had grown up in the US, and was married with two children (after implying otherwise in interviews). Khouri refused to concede that her book was essentially fiction, claiming that names, dates and locations were changed to protect reprisals against family and friends.

The documentary (written and directed by Anna Broinowski) quickly covers this familiar territory through dramatic re-enactments and a wide variety of interviews. But as the interviews continue, Broinowski allows the various subjects to watch recordings of other figures in the controversy and tapes their reactions. Layer upon layer of subterfuge develops and the audience is left wondering where the truth lies. The film's tagline is "Con or artist? You decide" and the official website allows you to vote on your impression of Norma. The poll shows that audiences are quite divided in their reaction to the author, with some impressed at how the book drew international attention to honour crimes and others less than impressed at her deceptions and alleged financial swindling.

Personally, although the phenomenon of the book and its aftermath is fascinating, I found Norma Khouri herself to be less and less interesting as the documentary progressed. Her lies end up simply being boring. In the end, sin is always boring.
Image from


jeltzz said...

I recall that Anna Broinowski was interviewed on Safran one Sunday evening. She seemed to find Khouri fascinating, and didn't really think, in the end, whether she was lying or not. It was a purely post-modern moment, where narrative trumped truth in every sense.

- Seumas

Martin Kemp said...

I remember an SMH article on a famous photo of a soldier dying on a hill during the Spanish Civil War. The author had a number of reasons to doubt the authenticity of the picture, suggesting it could be a fake. But the article ended by saying that it didn't really matter, because at many points during the war many soldiers met a similar end. It may not have been the whole truth, but it was a representation of the truth and therefore there was a legitimacy about it.
Same could be said about illustrations in sermons?