‘Tickled’ is No Laughing Matter
Summary: An innocent inquiry into an endurance tickling competition takes a bizarre turn, resulting in a film that is thrilling, heartbreaking, weird -- and the best documentary of the year.
“Are you ticklish?”
That seemingly innocent question is the starting point for an exploration of many far-from-innocent occurrences.
Tickled, a documentary co-directed by New Zealand journalist David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, was born of humble beginnings.
When Farrier saw an online ad seeking participants for “competitive endurance tickling,” it seemed like just the kind of quirky story he lived for. He sent off a brief message requesting an interview, but the oddly defensive and homophobic response he received (Farrier is gay) set off a chain reaction resulting in a thrilling, heartbreaking and just plain weird film that also happens to be the best documentary of the year.
The rude response to Farrier’s query makes him more curious than ever, and as he continues to investigate, things get weirder. Seemingly unrelated circumstances going back decades appear connected. It feels like the plot of a bizarre novel, but every bit of it really happened. (Of course, the subjects of the film would argue that the film is a fiction, and you can read their fascinating, if unconvincing, condemnation of the film at www.tickledmovie.info).
Tickled isn’t just a documentary; it’s skillful investigative journalism that achieves journalism’s highest aims: Shedding light on powerful people who would rather operate in the shadows, and giving voice to the voiceless.
The film also illustrates the cost of cyberbullying, as former tickling participants talk about how they were harassed to the point of having their lives virtually destroyed. The filmmakers follow the trail of destruction to a culprit whose own tragic backstory, according to one source, may have included being bullied as a child.
The premise of Tickled may have you laughing a bit at first, and certainly, there are a few laughs in the film. But as the filmmakers dig deeper and the truth becomes clearer, you’ll most likely leave the theater with a racing heart and a knot in the pit of your stomach.
“Tickled” is showing through Tuesday at Port Orchard’s Dragonfly Cinemas. Click here for showtimes and theater information.
Review by Evan Coleman