Controversy always sells. There was an incident a few years ago when author James Frey wrote a best-selling, critically acclaimed, Oprah-endorsed memoir that had one major flaw: It wasn’t completely true. The fallout forced Frey, his publishers, a good PR agency and even Oprah to clean up the mess.

In a similar instance, Norma Khouri released a ‘true story’ about the honor killing of her best friend in Jordan. Forbidden Love duped 500,000 readers, publishers and journalists in 15 countries. But her victims didn’t end there.

When her book was exposed by an Australian journalist in 2004, the world learned that Norma was not a Jordanian Catholic on the run from bloodthirsty Muslim patriarchs because of her campaign against honor crimes in the Middle East. She is actually Norma Bagain, a married Chicago real estate agent and mother of two. She has been under investigation by the FBI since 1999 for a million dollars of fraud.

Forbidden Lie$ seeks to depict and expose Norma as one of two things: a philanthropic author looking to shed light on modern acts of murder, or a brilliant manipulator who has mastered the art of the con.

Writer and director Anna Broinowski does particularly inspired work in her handling of the many facets of the story. She plays not only with the aesthetics of the reenactments (which look like cheesy school safety videos), but she is able to carry the viewer along each of Khouri’s deceitful paths with fluid and unsuspecting cleverness. The viewer thinks and feels exactly what Broinowski wants him and her to.

The documentary exposes Khouri as a cunning con artist, and the audience as all-too-willing suckers. Throughout the film, she is depicted as a normal, smooth talking businesswoman. She is given every opportunity to provide explanations for inconsistencies in her story. It is the veracity and tenacious vigor of her friends’ and families’ confessionals that pull the rug out from under her.

As the convoluted narration begins to spiral to a point past comprehension, the viewer is left bedazzled by the genius and monstrosity of the lies Khouri has created. The film seeks to make an obvious statement about the willingness of the public to accept whatever “truth” is handed it. The non-linear breakdown of Norma’s story is so unbelievable, so ridiculous, so preposterous: it could only be real.

Grade: A-

Forbidden Lie$ releases in select theaters April 10.