Scoring a coup by getting writer Norma Khouri to tell all about "Forbidden Love," her infamous literary fake about an Islamic honor killing, experienced Aussie documaker Anna Broinowski spends an entertaining first hour with the charismatic con artist but fails to quit while the going's good.

Scoring a coup by getting writer Norma Khouri to tell all about “Forbidden Love,” her infamous literary fake about an Islamic honor killing, experienced Aussie documaker Anna Broinowski spends an entertaining first hour with the charismatic con artist but fails to quit while the going’s good. Polished visuals and public curiosity give partly dramatized docu “Forbidden Lie$” a rough shot in markets where Khouri’s a known quantity, but prospects would be enhanced by trimming at least 20 minutes from the repetitive back end. Pic is skedded for local release in late 2007.

According to the 2003 book (“Honor Lost” in the U.S.), Khouri’s best friend Dalia was killed with impunity by her father for falling in love with a Christian soldier in Amman, Jordan. Book sold 500,000 copies and thrust its author into the spotlight as a fearless authority on women’s roles in Islamic society.

Presenting herself as a 34-year-old Catholic Jordanian virgin with a price on her head, Khouri moved to Australia and whooped it up on the literary and media circuits for a year before Sydney Morning Herald journalist Malcolm Knox exposed the work as little more than a pack of lies.

Smoothly and snappily recapping all these events and musing on how reputable publishers somehow missed dozens of glaring factual errors, docu then gets down to business with Khouri staking a claim for clemency.

Admitting she fabricated “minor details,” Khouri maintains Dalia did exist — and she’s prepared to prove it. Docu runs hot for a while as a trip back to Jordan is intercut with dramatizations of passages from the book and a trail leading to Chicago, where Khouri is known to the FBI as a married mother under different aliases.

Even as Knox and everyone else connected with the hoopla lines up to discredit Khouri, and the Dalia trail goes around in circles, pic stays afloat as long as Khouri, a supreme performer if ever there was one, has the answers. But Broinowski commits the crucial error of hanging around way too long once all key questions have been answered.

Highlight of the pristine tech package is glossy lensing of drama sequences and stylized studio interviews, with Khouri looking like the movie star she could just about become. Screening caught was HD projection; pic will be released in a 35mm transfer.

Forbidden Lie$

Australia

Production

A Palace Films release of a Film Finance Corp. Australia, Liberty Prods. production, in association with New South Wales Film & Television Office, South Australian Film Corp., Adelaide Film Festival, Palace Films. (International sales: Becker Intl., Sydney.) Produced by Sally Regan. Executive producer, Antonio Zeccola. Directed, written by Anna Broinowski.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Kathryn Milliss, Toby Oliver; editors, Alison Croft, Vanessa Milton; production designer, Robert Webb; costume designer, Mariot Kerr; sound designer (Dolby Digital), Craig Carter. Reviewed at Adelaide Film Festival, Feb. 25, 2007. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Norma Khouri. (English, Arabic dialogue)
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