Celebrity and the bizarre is the wheelhouse of New Zealand TV host David Farrier. While surfing the net in the newsroom he happened onto the site for competitive endurance tickling. The videos featured young men in gym gear on a raised mat straddle and surrounding the victim who is lying on his back tied down and ticked by the other players. The participants are clothed and the perks presented to poor young men to participate is great but it's not an activity that they would want to get out to family, work, or friends.
Intrigued Ferrier does some more digging to find out that the company behind the leagues is Jane O'Brien Media. He decides to contact the company to potentially set up and interview and is met with venomous vitriol in a severe attack filled with not readily available. Instead of backing off Ferrier teams up with Dylan Reeve to shoot a documentary about the subject.
As directors Ferrier and Reeve start shooting and gathering information the legal cease and asset letters start coming from the US followed by a visit from representatives from Jane O'Brien Media. The visiting trio play classic good cop, bad copy with the pair, do to want to be filmed leading the production to use alternative methods to get audio and video of their encounters.
The focus shifts to the US for the balance of the film as our protagonists pursue their legal adversaries and to see the home base for competitive tickling. The authors locate a former performer who is willing to sit down for an interview in his gym. He tells his story about being up for anything, being a risk taker and participating due to the fact that there were some family money issues. He was first surprised that there were no women present then he was tied down, straddled by other young athletic men and tickled over and under his shirt, on his feet and under his arms. The performer thought nothing of it then his introduction interview video showed up on the online followed by the full venom of the Jane O'Brien Media empire when he asked them to take it down in an attempt to destroy the young man's family,work and social life.
The co-directors continue to unravel the tickling empire their path taking them from Southern California to the East Coast and Midwest of the United States. They meet up with a former casting director that reveals participant zero of the tickling fetish who started out as a heavy participant on the tickling message boards in the eighties. The casting director had several telling items still in his possesion to show what happened to him when he crossed the largest tickling enthusiast.
Tickled is a documentary that is less about the fetish and more about the people behind the fetish empire. The co-directors set out to find why the people behind Jane O'Brien Media come out firing in every situation. Why do they have lawyers and private investigators on retention on two sides of the pacific? Why is there so much money involved in a very niche activity? The authors attempt to unspool all of the levels until they get to the core with the aim to confront face to face the people at the top of the pyramid.
**** Out of 4.
Tickled | David Farrier / Dylan Reeve | New Zealand | 2016 | 92 Minutes.
Tags: Documentary, Fetish, Competitive Tickling, Lawsuit, Internet, Identity Theft, Aliases.
Hot Docs Film Festival - Screens Saturday April 30 9:45 PM Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
Monday May 2 19:30 Am TIFF Bell Lightbox.