Posts Tagged ‘norma khouri


documentaries, norma khouri, lies and the creative treatment of actuality

At the moment I’m watching a documentary called True Stories: Forbidden Lies – about Norma Khouri. It’s an Australian documentary about a book written by Ms Khouri that she presented as truth, about a friend of hers who was killed in an honour killing. Apparently it’s all bollocks [to be SO colloquial]. The argument that appears to be going on is that Khouri is saying how she’s helped women to escape the regime of Jordan – however – there are women from Jordan who are trying to explode the lies, are ‘sick to death’ of being ‘wrongly portrayed’ in the media. At first, I thought, regardless of whether the book was a fabrication or not, she was helping people. But looking at the women of Jordan, they seem very happy with who they are and their freedom. I’m not sure, I don’t know enough about it. Apparently ‘honour killings’ are still occurring and that there are women who help them – so does it matter if it’s a invention?

Hmmm … I do find documentaries absolutely compelling. I’d much rather watch a documentary than a feature film any day. When I taught A Level Media Studies, I did a unit on documentary. Some students enjoyed it, others hate d it. But I got so passionate about ‘the creative treatment of actuality’ that occurs in documentaries, that I didn’t really care whether they enjoyed it or not! Ha ha … actually that’s not true. I tried to make sure that I included documentaries that they would enjoy watching . My part of our HOOGE DVD library is mainly documentaries – for some reason – the more depressing the better! Ha ha … actually that’s not true … but I do find them really exciting! Students used to moan that they could never watch another wildlife documentary again after I’d taught them – they’d constantly be looking for animorphious references.

So, while I’m writing this, I thought I’d give you my documentary recommendations:

Capturing the Friedmans – Quite a compelling documentary created using interviews and archive footage from The Friedmans’ own tapes. The father and youngest son were accused of child abuse – and the documentary shows the collapse of the family through their own eyes. They taped all their conversations, arguments, trials and tribulations. It’s a tough watch, but worth watching simply because of the way in which they have compiled the documentary and the story itself. In some ways it’s like watching an extended version of The Jerry Springer Show – which isn’t the best recommendation – however I do totally recommend it as a completely compelling story.

Aileen – By one of my favourite documentary film makers – Nick Broomfield. There are two documentaries about Aileen Wournos, the female serial killer who killed her ‘John’s’ and was eventually executed for the crimes. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen ‘Monster’ with Charlize Theron? She played Aileen Wournos (very well in fact) and if you watch the documentaries AND the film, you will really really wonder what the fuck is wrong with the USA (if you’re not wondering already) that they could execute a mentally unstable woman. Heartbreaking.

Paradise Lost I and II – You may have seen me mention the West Memphis Three on Facebook before – these documentaries are about them. The first documentary was commissioned by HBO when they heard about three teenage ‘metallers’ in Arkansas who had been accused of the ritualistic killings of three 8 year old boys. The first documentary is compelling as you really are not completely sure whether the three boys did commit the murders – however – when Berlinger and Sinofsky returned for Paradise Lost II, they approached it with the belief that the boys were innocent. Honestly, you HAVE to watch these documentaries – if you don’t watch the documentaries at least go to the website: I cannot believe that Damien Echols is STILL on death row, he was put there when he was 18, when I was 18, and he’s still there. All this life I’ve lived, and he’s been locked away for something I’m 99.9% sure he didn’t do [there always has to be slight doubt doesn’t there?].

One Day In September – A film by Kevin McDonald about ‘Black September’ – the Palestinian group who held Jewish athletes hostage at the Munich Olympic Games, and then killed them [Munich – by Stephen Spielberg is about the apparent Mossad hunt to take revenge on the terrorists]. The documentary is edited like a thriller. Even though you know the outcome, you are still caught up in the roller coaster ride. What is most gripping is the absolute inadequacies of the Germans in dealing with the situation. They were SO desperate to show that they were no longer the heavy-handed force that they once were during the war that they behaved ineffectually.

Touching From A Distance – Another documentary by Kevin McDonald – instead of relying on archive footage and interviews for this one – he staged re-enactments and interviews with the protagonists to move the story along. I really think that Kevin McDonald is an awesome documentary film-maker – he really knows how to grip his audience. This film is about two guys who tried to climb the Sierra Madre in Peru [I think that’s what it’s called] – and had an accident. I won’t go into the whole story – in case you do watch it – but again – COMPLETELY compelling. The characters are wholly uncompassionate but you can’t help wanting to know their stories.

DIG! – I LOVE this documentary so much – it just makes me laugh – especially the line ‘You broke my fucking sitar man’ [not sure I’ve quoted this entirely correctly but you get the idea]. This documentary was filmed over 9 years, charting the successes and collapses of the bands The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. As you probably know, The Dandy Warhols became fairly successful [especially in the UK] whereas The BJM imploded due to their insanity and ‘creative differences’. However, I definitely prefer BJM compared to the Dandies, they should have been SO much bigger, but the lead singer, Anton is a complete mentalist! You HAVE to watch this, even if you don’t like the music, because it’s just so fascinating.

Ok – some other documentaries (without my blurb):

* Grizzly Man

* Dogtown and Z-Boys

* Dark Days

* Supersize Me

* Manufacturing Dissent [watch in conjunction with any Michael Moore documentaries – I still like Michael Moore but the guy definitely takes ‘the creative treatment of actuality’ to its full degree]

* Nanook of the North [probably the first feature length documentary ever made]

* Courtney and Kurt

* Tupac and Biggie

* Murderball

* Jesus Camp

Any documentary by Jon Ronson – my favourite journalist.


Well there you go, the Polly guide to the world of documentaries J I’m always looking for new ones to watch so if you have any recommendations, let me know!

I’ve now got about another hour of this documentary about Khouri to watch – it’s intriguing. I’m not sure if she’s full of shit or not. She’s said that obviously a lot of the story is fabricated to ‘protect the innocent’ – and she ‘doesn’t want her [her friend who was killed] real name going public’ – however – if you’re desperate to prove that you’ve spoken the truth and to avenge the woman’s death then do it. Then be truthful. Surely? I guess I don’t understand the situation in Jordan. Now the woman is saying that the killing happened 8 years later – so it’s completely fucked up. I really don’t understand what is going on with this woman – it’s sad that she’s exploiting something so personal and painful for some people – and there seems to be little proof to her story. Hmmmmmmmm. I can go online for free after midnight so I’ll have to look up some more about this when I can.

Hmm, ok, now the woman who started the campaign against the writer, has just said that the ‘arabs’ who committed the September 11th atrocities were [in HER quote marks] “evil” – ie: suggesting that they weren’t. She said the same about Saddam Hussein – I’m sorry – but they WERE evil. I’m not saying that the Western world isn’t evil but the bombers and Hussein WERE evil. Sorry – I’m giving you a blow by blow account of this documentary and you’ve probably seen it! –

Iactually think this woman is quite mental. She’s said that if she returns to Jordan her father would kill her – but they’ve just interviewed her with the father – and he seems fine. He said that he was strict … but he doesn’t seem like the potential murderer that she said he is.

Well – I didn’t know what to think at the end of the documentary. In fact, was I really meant to come to a conclusion? The interviewer/ film-maker seemed to get very angry with Khouri, and the ending was most interesting – by using a very, seemingly elaborate backdrop, they showed up the sham of the ‘talking heads’ part of the documentary – suggesting perhaps that everyone enjoys playing with reality????? Quite interesting.

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