(full disclosure: I'm familiar with this film's directors, and directed David Farrier in Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws. It's New Zealand. We all know each other.)
We first covered Tickled two years ago, when it was but a fledgling Kickstarter campaign for a film called Tickle King. Co-directed by New Zealand journalist David Farrier and filmmaker Dylan Reeve, it's a documentary exploring the weird world of Competitive Endurance Tickling. That's a strange concept in and of itself, and prime fodder for a goofy profile doc, but things only ramped up from there, with the organisation behind the "sport" turning out to be inexplicably secretive and prone to blackmail, fraud, and abuse.
Over the course of making and releasing the feature, things seem to have legitimately spiralled out of control, with the filmmakers themselves being targeted by lawyers, private investigators, and more.
Now that Tickled is complete, it's been doing the festival rounds, including an apparently well-regarded showing at Sundance. Well-regarded by some, at least: festival screenings have been routinely gatecrashed by people filming with hidden cameras. On at least one occasion, the film had to be stopped so that police could remove the unwanted guests after they repeatedly refused to obey staff requests to leave. They're believed to have been New York-based P.I.s, not just opportunistic and wealthy (festival passes ain't cheap) pirates – there's definitely something going on here.
The US trailer for Tickled has just dropped:
How dramatic! Magnolia is playing this one like a conspiracy thriller, replete with Inception "braaaahms", which certainly gets the ol' interest piqued. This is one of those scenarios where it's hard to tell how much of the drama is trumped-up by marketing and how much is The Real Thing, man. Claiming to expose Big Secrets is a great way to get eyeballs, but boy, I hope the movie delivers - if not on the conspiratorial front, then at least for tickling fetishists, who are apparently everywhere.
Here's the official synopsis, courtesy of Magnolia:
After stumbling upon a bizarre “competitive endurance tickling” video online, wherein young men are paid to be tied up and tickled, reporter David Farrier reaches out to request a story from the company. But the reply he receives is shocking—the sender mocks Farrier's sexual orientation and threatens extreme legal action should he dig any deeper. So, like any good journalist confronted by a bully, he does just the opposite: he travels to the hidden tickling facilities in Los Angeles and uncovers a vast empire, known for harassing and harming the lives of those who protest their involvement in these films. The more he investigates, the stranger it gets, discovering secret identities and criminal activity. Discovering the truth becomes Farrier’s obsession, despite increasingly sinister threats and warnings. With humor and determination, Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve summon up every resource available to get to the bottom of this tickling wormhole.
Our three New Zealand readers and I (holla!) can check out Tickled from May 26th; US audiences can discover how deep the armpit hole goes on June 17th.