Tickled – Review ****

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Have you ever heard of competitive endurance tickling? No? Want to Google it? Watch a few videos? Yeah? Looks fun, doesn’t it? Weird, silly and fun. And that’s exactly what New Zealander journalist David Farrier thought when he stumbled upon those videos on Youtube. Having made a career of writing and reporting on weird stories, Farrier thought this was just going to be one more of those. Boy, was he wrong.

Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve’s first feature documentary, Tickled, will make you cringe and consider how demented some people are, but not for the reasons you’re thinking. This piece of investigative journalism is not about the erotic side of tickling, about the sexual fetish you may have glanced at accidentally while in dubious online websites. Yes, you’ll have the pleasure of watching an Orlando fetish filmmaker in action, but that’s a very small part of the documentary. But because Tickled is stronger the less you know about its plot, let us just mention a few words that may be used to describe it, while (kinda) avoiding spoilers. Young boys. Money & power. Cyber Fraud. Bullying. Death threats. Psychopath tendencies. Revenge documentary.

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As we follow Farrier deeper into the rabbit hole, as he seems to go against constant walls protecting something or someone, we watch as he tries with no success to contact the boys from the videos, interview the staff of Jane O’Brien Media (the production company behind the tickling videos), try to follow the money to find out who’s behind all this, and listen to concerned producer calls as the lawsuits get bigger and bigger the closest they get to the truth. There can be no doubt about it – Farrier, though his journalistic confrontational methods may seem somewhat, er, non-confrontational, has balls of steel, and so does Reeve. The trouble they got for finishing this film – including interrupted screenings, and even more legal threats – should be enough to show what they did really does matter, and the more people that watch it, the better.

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Working as a thriller, with constant fades to black to build up tension (or to allow a breather from the suspense), Tickled is a revenge documentary against bullies all over the world, a David vs Goliath story in the vein of Frederick Wiseman, using hidden cameras and laudable stubbornness to tell its story. It may provoke some collateral damage, as we can’t imagine the fetish community being too happy about the portrait of their scene, and one may raise ethical concerns related to a simplistic view of mental health matters, but as an eye-opening documentary about a subject that turns to be, surprisingly enough, known to almost everyone, Tickled may well be one of a kind.

Tickled will be released in UK cinemas from 19th August 2016.

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.