Monday, April 24, 2017

Competitive Endurance Tickling

In documentary film making, it's not uncommon for the director of a movie to start out with one intention only to wind up making an entirely different movie. But rarely is that experience so translated to the viewers in the finished product as with the unusual documentary Tickled.

David Farrier is a television reporter from New Zealand. He's the type of guy that does those "lighter side" segments that usually appear in the final 5 minutes of a TV newscast on a slow day. And he thought he was onto just another story when he stumbled onto the world of "competitive endurance tickling." I'm not sure if that's what you think it sounds like, but if you think it's young, athletic men holding each other down and forcibly tickling each other, then you're on the right track.

Farrier's efforts to research a story on the subject were quickly and strangely rebuffed, as he received a nasty email from Jane O'Brien Media -- the force behind the... uh... "sport?" -- an email insulting him for being bisexual and protesting (too much) about the legitimacy of competitive endurance tickling and the complete lack of anything homoerotic about it. This got Farrier's hackles up, and what started out as one more segment for his TV show suddenly became a deep dive investigative documentary film.

At the risk of spoilers (and also at the risk of stating the obvious), this entire enterprise is far from legitimate. Tickled soon morphs into a film about sexual proclivities, and a criminal endeavor to coerce, blackmail, and dox young men. Along the way, Farrier takes side trips to examine computer hacking, a bizarre family history, and even the legitimate tickle video industry. That the whole thing clocks in at a coherent and complete 92 minutes is a testimony to the reporting and editing of Farrier and his co-director Dylan Reeve.

HBO picked up the film for broadcast in the states, so if you've got HBO (or are using a friend's account) in anticipation of Game of Thrones, or to watch their current can't miss show, then you can check out Tickled for yourself. I'm not exactly sure who to recommend it for, but it lands pretty squarely in my wheelhouse, at the intersection of true crime, stranger than fiction, and LGBT interest. I'd give it a B+. It left me, well... the title says it all.

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