Forbiden Lies

[pic] Roxie Releasing presents the 2008 US theatrical release of FORBIDDEN LIE$ A film by Anna Broinowski Con or Artist WHO DO YOU BELIEVE? The journalist? The Chicago mobster? The murdered friend? The FBI? The violent husband? The extorted granny? The spurned lover? The outraged publisher? The embittered fan? The detective? The Muslim activist? The estranged father? The psychiatrist? The media? Yourself? A REAL LIFE THRILLER ABOUT NORMA KHOURI, THE PEOPLE SHE’S CONNED, AND HOW NOONE’S SAFE IN THE AGE OF SPIN. ? WINNER Best non-fiction Screenplay? Writer’s Guild of America (East and West) 2008 WINNER 20,000 Euro ‘Cult’ Prize ? Rome Film Festival 2007 ? WINNER Golden Gate Awards Special Jury Prize ? 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival ? WINNER Golden Award – long form documentary? 2008 Al Jazeera International Documentary Festival ? WINNER Best Film Script? 2008 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards ? WINNER 2 Australian Film Institute Awards ? Best Documentary Feature Film 2007 Best Editing in a documentary 2007 ? WINNER 2 Film Critics’ Awards ? Best Feature Documentary – Film Ciritcs Circle of Australia Best Feature Documentary – Australian Film Critics’ Association ? Top Ten Audience Favourite ?
Hotdocs, Toronto Adelaide International Film festival Melbourne International Film Festival ? Official Selection ? Sheffield International Documentary Festival Vancouver International Film Festival Rio International Film Festival Rome International Film Festival MOMA documentary fortnight, New York (USA) 2008 True/False Film Festival (USA) 2008 San Francisco International Film Festival (USA) 2008 Al Jazeera Film Festival (Qatar) 2008 Full Frame Documentary Festival (USA) 2008 Honolulu International film festival (USA) 2008 Silverdocs International Documentary festival (USA) 2008 S H O R T S Y N O P S I S
In July 2004, Norma Khouri, best-selling author of ‘Forbidden Love’, was exposed as a fake. She’d won fame and fortune as a Jordanian virgin on the run from Islamic extremists who’d put a Fatwah on her head for her campaign against honour killings. But she was really Norma Bagain, a Chicago real-estate agent and mother of two, on the run from the FBI for one million dollars of fraud. Spinning murder, politics, greed and literary scandal into a web that ensnares us all, FORBIDDEN LIE$ is a real-life thriller about a brilliant con/artist, the people she’s duped, and why, despite everything, we still want to believe her. R E V I E W S ((( “Wildly entertaining and utterly compelling, Forbidden Lie$ is the documentary version of an airport novel – one you can’t take your eyes off…Riveting” Colin Fraser, Filmink _______________________________________________________________ (((( “As compelling as any thriller…” Michael Adams, Empire _______________________________________________________________ (((( “This totally fascinating documentary…is made with considerable skill: it’s a tantalising real-life mystery. ” David Stratton, At the Movies, ABC TV _______________________________________________________________ (((( Margaret Pomeranz, At the Movies, ABC TV ______________________________________________________________ (((( “This superb documentary… is the best Australian film of the year. ” Adrian Martin, The Australian _______________________________________________________________ (((( “This isn’t a dry documentary: rather it’s a chase movie… ” Rodney Chester, Courier Mail _______________________________________________________________ (((( “This unconventional documentary will mess with your mind… ” “A staggering coup… ” “Quite unlike any documentary you have seen… ” Leigh Paatch, Herald Sun _______________________________________________________________ (((( What a coup…Funny, entertaining and clever. A marvellously inventive documentary, it peels away layers of a fascinating saga one-by-one…With this debut feature, (Broinowski) establishes herself as a bold new voice in Australian filmmaking, unafraid to take risks and be flamboyant. ” Sacha Molitorisz, Sydney Morning Herald _______________________________________________________________ (((( “layered and visually inventive…” “riveting viewing” Rose Capp, Melbourne Times _______________________________________________________________ (((( “Fascinating and surprisingly engaging. ” Tim Hunter, SBS Radio ______________________________________________________________ (((( “addictive viewing…” Andiee Paviou, Who Weekly _______________________________________________________________ (((( “engrossing…this is a documentary that will keep you on the edge of your seat. ” “Made with a considerable degree of astonishment, unexpected affection and a large dose of humour…” Tom Ryan, Sunday Age _______________________________________________________________ (((( “gripping…as compelling as any dramatic feature you’re likely to see this year…” Mark Naglazas, The West Australian _______________________________________________________________ 9/10 You’ll want it to be longer…” “Try to see it in a cinema as this is a group experience, where everyone gasps at the same moments. ” Rob Lowing, Sun Herald _______________________________________________________________ (((( “utterly fascinating” “a very slick presentation, and the story it presents has enough twists and turns to keep an audience enthralled. ” Tracey Prisk, Sunday Telegraph _______________________________________________________________ ((((( “documentary gold” “a brain-twisting, humorous journey which will leave you wide-eyed with a mix of wonder, admiration and disgust. “Like a true-life Catch Me If You Can with chicks. ” Annika Priest, Melbourne Leader _______________________________________________________________ (((( “A fascinating, clever documentary. ” Sunday Mail (Adelaide) _______________________________________________________________ (((( “mesmerizing…hooks the viewer in…” “a gripping piece of on-the-fly filmmaking” Jeff Crawford, Messenger Newspapers (Adelaide) _______________________________________________________________ (((( SBS Movie Show _______________________________________________________________ “Fair minded and meticulously researched” Vicky Roach, Marie Claire ______________________________________________________________ “Forbidden Lie$ is a dazzling performance, both by Khouri and director Anna Broinowski…” Martyn Pedlar, Three Thousand _______________________________________________________________ “Shot and constructed like a courtroom drama…” Susan Skelly, The Bulletin _______________________________________________________________ “The real coup here is the unlimited access to Khouri herself, who jumps at the opportunity to tell her side of the story…this absorbing documentary is a thought-provoking conversation starter well worth catching. ” Matt Riviera ______________________________________________________________ “A compelling yarn…Forbidden Lie$ looks likely to endure as its subject’s monument. ” Jake Wilson, The Age Every great crime says something about the times we live in. Warren Beatty, THE HEIST [pic] S Y N O P S I S How often do you get inside the mind of a con woman – “one of the best ever”, according to the Chicago cop desperate to track her down? Norma Khouri is a thief, a saint, a seductress and a sociopath – depending on who’s talking. Men want to marry her, Islamic extremists want to kill her and the global publishing industry wishes she’d just disappear.

Those she duped with her best-selling ‘true story’ about the honour killing of her best friend Dalia in Jordan, Forbidden Love, number 500,000 readers, publishers and journalists in 15 countries. But her victims don’t end there. When Norma’s book was exposed as a fake by Australian journalist Malcolm Knox in July 2004, the world learned that Norma was not, as she’d claimed on Western chatshows, a Jordanian Catholic virgin on-the-run from bloodthirsty Muslim patriarchs who’d placed a fatwah on her head for her outspoken campaign against honour crimes in the Middle East, but 34 year old Norma Bagain a. . a. Touliopoulos, a married Chicago real-estate agent and mother of two, under investigation since 1999 by the FBI for one million dollars’ of fraud. Knox’s scoop rocked the literary world and prompted the FBI to reopen their files on Norma. Norma took a lie detector test in self defence, sued Knox for defamation, dumped her kids with ex-heroin addict and ‘tart-with-a-heart of gold’ Rachel Richardson in Bribie Island Queensland, and fled to the U. S. A with $350,000 in advances still owing to her outraged Publishers. She’s been in hiding ever since. And now she wants to talk.
Weaving between the literary salons of London, the mosque-lined vistas of Jordan, the beachside suburbs of Queensland and the seamy Chicago backstreets of Norma’s dubious past, FORBIDDEN LIE$ pits Norma’s tale against the stories of those she conned. There’s Mary Baravikas, who died in an underfunded Chicago hospital after Norma alledgedly cashed in her life savings and stole her house. There’s Rachel Richardson, $15,000 poorer thanks to Norma, who still swears her friend is a ”sweet person who’d bake pies for everyone in the street – she’s just got dark secrets only she can answer”.
And there’s Norma’s estranged husband with alledged ties to the Chicago mob, John Toliopoulos, whom Norma claims forced her to commit her crimes at gunpoint. Meanwhile, Forbidden Love has just been released in the Arab world as fiction, Middle Eastern women continue to be murdered by male relatives in ‘crimes of honour’ with apparent impunity, and Human Rights Groups have yet to receive a cent of the royalties Norma Khouri promised them.
Jordanian honour crimes activist Rana Husseini, furious at the damage that Norma’s “fake book” has done to her cause, is demanding to know why the 73 factual errors in Forbidden Love slipped past publishing giants Simon & Schuster, Random House and Transworld just before the Iraq invasion, when racist potboilers about evil Muslim men with mysteriously veiled women on the covers were selling like hotcakes. So who was really cashing in? Who is to blame?
And does it matter that Norma lied? FORBIDDEN LIE$ lets you be the judge. As we follow Norma to Jordan to meet with people she says will “prove that Dalia existed, that she was murdered, and that the media has lied”, we also investigate Norma’s criminal past. Will the FBI arrest her? Is her passion to stop honour crimes genuine, or just a new con? Who do you believe, as you watch Norma’s web of stories spinning ever faster, ensnaring everyone, including the filmmaker?
Is she a calculating sociopath, a damaged soul craving the limelight, a genuine martyr, or simply a monster of our age, who states that “if Bush and Blair can spin the truth about WMDs to justify bombing innocent people then why can’t I spin Dalia’s story to save women from being murdered on a daily basis? ” In a spin-driven era, as the lines between truth and fiction grow increasingly blurred, FORBIDDEN LIE$ is a real-life thriller for our time. Weaving murder, deceit, greed, the East/West clash and an international literary scandal into a web that entangles us all, Norma Khouri’s real-life drama is even stranger than her fiction.
We all love watching a successful con story – the more dangerous the better. But this time, it’s for real. [pic] Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t. MARK TWAIN P R O D U C T I O N N O T E S “The marriage between con-artist and filmmaker is a match made in heaven: both use a million tiny deceits to manipulate the way we think and feel; both are in the business of making illusions real. ” ANNA BROINOWSKI When director Anna Broinowski read Malcolm Knox’s Sydney Morning Herald article exposing Norma Khouri as a hoax in July 2004, she knew she’d found the subject for her next documentary. I wanted to know what kind of woman could be so brilliant that while on the run from the FBI she could reinvent herself as a Jordanian virgin with a Fatwah on her head, write a best-seller, and convince the best publishing and media minds in the world that she was telling the truth. ” Teaming up with producer Sally Regan in early 2005, Anna invited Norma (then lying low in Chicago) to fly to San Fransisco to attend the premiere of her last documentary, HELEN’S WAR (about anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott), at the Castro Theatre.
Norma liked what she saw, and agreed to tell Anna her side of the story on the condition that Anna make a film putting Honour Crimes back in the spotlight. Anna, smitten by Norma, agreed: “on the first day of the shoot I was telling the crew to hide their credit cards, that Norma was a notorious con-woman; by the third day, Norma had convinced me that her book was not a hoax, that she was utterly genuine, and that everything the media had written about her criminal past in Chicago was a lie. She promised to take us back to Jordan to prove her friend really was murdered: how could I not believe her? Anna’s journey from Norma convert to con-victim is just one of several betrayals captured in the labyrinth of Truth and Spin that is FORBIDDEN LIE$. By the time Anna and DOP Kathryn Milliss got to Jordan with Norma (and her American ‘body guard’, Jeremey Lackowski), it was obvious that Norma was taking them for a ride. Key witnesses disappeared, locations evaporated, and the actual hair salon, in which Norma had promised to introduce Dalia’s friends to the camera, fell apart when Norma’s mysterious ‘cousin’ failed to arrive with the key. I realized I could no longer make a film vindicating Norma; that this had become a portrait of a con woman whether I liked it or not”, says Anna. Yet through it all, Anna and Norma have remained friends: “there is a sense with Norma that everything is a game for her, that she relishes the challenge of having to improvise when confronted, of having to convince you to believe her all over again. I can’t help admiring her audacity”. The film’s style was designed to directly reflect the mental sleights of hand Norma plays out on her victims. Armed with a 1. million dollar budget, the filmmakers worked hard with visual effects company Resin and DOPs Kathryn Milliss and Toby Oliver to create CGI and in-camera illusions; the expense of the round-the-world shoot was offset by filming several of the Jordanian scenes in Adelaide with the imaginative help of designer Robert Webb and his team. Above all, the filmmakers were keen to create a ‘real-life thriller’ rather than a conventional documentary: FORBIDDEN LIE$ owes more to the narrative structures of con movies like CATCH ME OF YOU CAN and HOUSE OF GAMES than it does to non-fiction genres. What excites me about FORBIDDEN LIE$ is that people walk out with more questions than answers. I don’t know if we got to the bottom of who Norma is, I don’t think even Norma knows who she is”, says Sally Regan. “There can be no absolute conclusion with someone like Norma”, agrees Anna. “Should we judge Norma, or the spin-driven climate that allowed her to thrive? If the audience walks out less inclined to trust what they are told, by anyone, especially the filmmaker, then that’s a good thing! ”
With a successful Australian release through Palace in 2007, 2 AFI wins, Top Ten audience votes at Hotdocs, Melbourne and Adelaide Film Festivals, international prizes including the San Francisco Golden Gate Special jury Prize and the Rome Film Fest ‘Cult’ Award, and distribution deals in the US, Japan and the Middle East, FORBIDDEN LIE$ is satisfying people’s desires to be entertainingly deceived. Even Norma, now selling car insurance and studying human rights law at night-school in Chicago, has seen the film and enjoyed it.
Of course she had an outrageous new comeback to every allegation made against her… but all of that is revealed in the DVD, released by Madman in April 2008! [pic] The public will believe anything, so long as it is not based on the truth. Edith Sitwell T E A M ANNA BROINOWSKI (Director/Writer/Producer) is a NIDA acting graduate who has been making award winning films for international audiences for the past ten years. Her 2004 film Helen’s War – portrait of a dissident (CBC/ZDF/FFC/SBS) won an Australian Film Institute award for Best Director (Documentary) and Best Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival Dendy Awards.
It was nominated for a Canadian Gemini, an Independent Film Award and an Australian Film Critics Circle award. It sold to Sundance Channel, screened theatrically in Australia and the US and toured the UK as part of the 2005 British/Australian Film Festival. Two of Anna’s other documentaries, Hell Bento!! (SBS/AFC) and Sexing the Label (SBS/FFC), both had theatrical releases, screened at several international film festivals, sold widely overseas, and can still be found in the cult section of Australian video stores.
Anna’s other films are Romancing the Chakra (ABC/FFC) and the shorts Tsunami (part of the Slamdance DVD 12 angry Women) and Burqa (part of the 2004 Oz feature Time to Go John. ) Anna’s past awards include Best Australian Documentary (Sydney Film Festival), 1 Bronze and 1 Silver Plaque (Columbus Film Festival), Best Documentary (Film West) and Best Documentary Director (Films des Femmes, France). SALLY REGAN (Producer) was awarded the Kenneth Myer Fellowship upon graduation from the Australian Film Television and Radio School and has produced film and television in Australia, Europe, Asia and America for the past 15 years.
Her documentary, First Look, won the Fuji award, and her short film, Swerve, opened the Berlin Film Festival. In 1997 Sally won the AFC Distinctly Australian Script Editing award. From 1999 to 2003 Sally was Business Affairs Manager of Documentary Production at Film Australia, Australia’s leading documentary agency. Since then, she has co-produced the international Russell Crowe-narrated series The Colour of War, and produced National Treasures, Korean Anzac, Peter Berner’s Loaded Brush and Road to Tokyo.
Sally is currently developing a number of projects, including the feature film Axe Fall, a recent participant in the competitive NSWFTO Aurora script workshop (the development stomping ground of acclaimed Australian dramas SOMERSAULT and LITTLE FISH). We are never deceived: we deceive ourselves. GOETHE [pic] M A I N C A S T The ArtistNorma Khouri The PressMalcolm Knox Rana Husseini Caroline Overington Jon Yates The LawDet. Ed Torian, NYPD Frank Bochte FBI Dawn Lawkowski The FriendsRachel Richardson Kara Elliott Maree Elliott The ClanJohn Toliopoulos
Majid Bagain Cousin Faris Asma Bagain The LiteratiPatrick Walsh Larry Finlay David Leser The ActivistsDr. Amal al Sabbagh Nadia Shamroukh The MuscleJeremy Lackowski John Akdikman Anna Hermann The MedicsCharles v. Ford MD Dr. Mu’men Hadidi Dr. Hani Jahshan Dr. Nasri Khoury The ActorsDalia: Linda Mutawi Mohammed: Shahin Azimi Mahmood: Fariborz Zareei Michael: Farhad Noori Norma: Sara Azadegan M A I N C R E W Director/writerAnna Broinowski ProducersSally Regan and Anna Broinowski CinematographersKathryn Milliss and Toby Oliver ACS
EditorsAlison Croft and Vanessa Milton Titles/CGIResin 35 mm Blow-up/additional CGITim Trumble Sound design and MixCraig Carter and Peter Smith Drama designerRobert Webb Covers composerMax Sharam Completed July 2007 Format 35 mm Sound6 track Dolby Duration 104 minutes FORBIDDEN LIE$ was produced by the Film Finance Corporation Australia, produced and developed in association with the New South Wales Film and Television Office, and produced in association with the South Australian Film Corporation, the Adelaide Film Festival and Palace Films.
It was developed and produced with the financial assistance of the Australian Film Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and developed with the financial assistance of the South Australian Film Corporation. Distributed in Australia and NZ by Palace Films. International Sales by Jonathan Page of Becker International. [email protected] com. au US Theatrical release through Roxie Releasing, contact Bill Banning at [email protected] com or Rick Norris at [email protected] com and phone (415) 431 3611 [pic] A half truth is a whole lie. YIDDISH PROVERB

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