Forbidden Lie$

As unusual, even sensational, images appear, it becomes clear that Forbidden Lie$'s more conventional images are also up for challenges, that they can no longer be assumed to be true.

Forbidden Lie$

Director: Anna Broinowski
Cast: Norma Khouri
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: Roxie Releasing
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2009-04-10 (Limited release)

"I had a difficult childhood," says Norma Khouri at the start of Forbidden Lie$. She grew up in Jordan, where her father was difficult and her movements were limited, specifically because she is female. Still, she continues, her troubles were minor compared to those endured by her best friend, who was murdered by her father and brothers.

Khouri's story -- or, as she insists, Dalia's story -- needs to be out, to be told and retold, in order that the Jordanian government and conservative segments of the population are moved to change. Her determination to bring on this change, to shame authorities who condone honor killing, to agitate against traditionalist oppressions, and to ignite the outrage of the world, has brought Khouri to a particular place, she insists. This place is not altogether clear -- in her mind or in Anna Broinowski's complicated, troubling, and fascinating documentary.

At first, Forbidden Lie$ appears unremarkable. Though Khouri's report is surely horrific, the arc is predictable and the images are more or less standard.Khouri's memories of her years in Amman, where she and Dalia opened N&D's Unisex Beauty Salon ("One of Amman's few salons owned and operated by women that served a mixed clientele," she reports). Here Dalia, a Muslim, fell in love with a client, a Christian soldier named Michael. Their love affair blossomed, Khouri remembers, with the help of friends who "invented a series of covert operations that would allow Michael and Dalia to date." Though they never had sex, they were committed to one another, and this, Dalia's male relatives could not abide. One night they descended upon her with knives -- this being the weapon of choice in such circumstances -- and cleansed the family's honor.

Khouri was so horrified by this event-- as well as the fact that the murderers served essentially no jail time -- that she left Jordan and began to write down the saga. "I wanted the whole world to know she was murdered," Khouri explains, "I wanted the whole world to know what an injustice the whole thing was." The result, a book titled Forbidden Love, was published by Random House and became a sensation in the months following 9/11, landing Khouri on talk shows and before crowds at book stores. Described as a virgin "married to the cause", Khouri was, as one journalist puts it, "like a rock star. If there had been music, we would have had a mosh pit." Khouri, fearing for her own life -- a fatwa had reportedly been issued -- moved to Bribie Island in Queensland. Here she met Rachel Richardson, a neighbor whose stepson had recently been charged with murder. The women were instantly close, Rachel recalls: "I worshipped the ground she bloody walks on."

But as Khouri's story seems on track to a more or less regular ending -- publicity yielding appropriate public and official outrage, Khouri's status as valiant truth teller affirmed --Forbidden Lie$ more or less screeches to a halt in order to introduce Rana Husseini. A journalist who has worked for years at the Jordan Times, Husseini looks into the camera and announces, " This book is not the truth."

A scandal arose in the wake of this and similar assertions as multiple readers found factual errors in Khouri's book (the film lists some of these, including wrong locations and dates; one doctor at the hospital where Dalia's body was reportedly delivered asserts, with camera in tow under fluorescent tubes: "We don't have any dimly it hallways!"). These led to broader doubts concerning Dalia's murder, even her existence. Khouri protested that her story was essentially true, that she had changed names and time and places in order to protect people -- including it turns out, her personal status. Now she explains her deception as critical to the "campaign", as she calls it, to end honor killing. She had to defend her two young children and husband, John Toliopoulos, from revenge plots against her. By 2004, Australian investigative journalist Malcolm Knox had exposed the book as a hoax, reporting that not only was she not precisely who she said she was, but also that Khouri was a con artist wanted by the FBI.

The film structures its own investigation as a kind of back-and-forth debate, with Khouri or her husband watching footage of someone else making claims on a laptop Broinowski provides. Likewise, the film gives time to Knox or others who felt scammed by Khouri, including author David Leser (“It was an Oscar-winning performance”), her neighbor Rachel (“At the end of the day my focus was on those two innocent children”), and her publicists and agent. As Khouri protests her innocence, the film illustrates -- again by polished, compelling reenactments -- effects on her children (they sit with backs to the camera, watching the scandal unfold on television), as well as the apparent lies in the book. One especially striking scene has Dalia's brutal knifing -- repeated more than once in the film -- revealed as a performance, and then rewound as such, with the actress and her attackers laughing as she climbs up from her bed covered in blood-red liquid yuck.

As these unusual images appear, it becomes clear that the film's more conventional images are also up for challenges. The interviews, the documents highlighted, the archival footage or photos of a particular time and place -- none of these can be assumed to be true. Khouri insists that her fundamental story is true, that women are in fact murdered and that the practice of honor killing, and the cultural and political contexts that allow it, must end. Whether this truth -- and there are disputes here as to numbers and pervasiveness, though as Khouri points out, even one is too many -- overrides the deceptions that made the story known worldwide, is not explicitly the film's interest.

Rather, Forbidden Lie$ takes apart the publishing and entertainment industry that pounced on and exploited Khouri's story, the racism and misogyny that propel violent customs and fictions, and especially, the desire to believe in truths that fulfill expectations. As the film ends, and Khouri, the camera crew, and Broinowski leave the set of their last interview, the apparatus of this film itself seems exposed. It is left to you to decide where any kind of truth might be found.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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