Directors: David Farrier & Dylan Reeve
Cinematographer: Dominic Fryer
Composers: Rodi Kirkcaldy & Florian Zwietnig
Multiple times while watching Tickled my boyfriend and I would turn to each other with looks of amazement, shock, asking each other if we’d ever heard of the topics and themes the film raised. Most of the time, though, we were left semi-speechless, only able to mutter a general “what the fuck?”, because all other words escaped us. The topic of this very well made film is fascinating, kinda repulsive, but mostly just plain weird. And then the story gets weirder. And weirder. But you can’t look away for a single second and you are, in spite of yourself, along for the ride the entire 92 minutes.
Apparently there is a world within the bowels of the internet in which people want to see young in shape men getting tickled. No sex acts. No nudity. Just a bunch of dudes tickling each other and laughing. New Zealand journalist David Farrier was looking for his next human interest piece and when he discovered this community he reached out for comments and an explanation – he wanted to showcase this apparently fun and innocuous slice of the weird side of the internet. He could not have anticipated what came next. Immediately he was assaulted by disparaging emails that were meant to humiliate, criticize, and insult him and his sexuality. The messages were non stop. He then was threatened with law suits. Then the company that produced the videos sent three representatives to New Zealand from California to intimidate him. Clearly Farrier was on to something. If the intent of all this bizarre behavior was to deter him, then the company and its head had clearly made a giant error in judgment.
Yet the investigation proved to be harder than expected. Nobody seemed to wish to speak to Farrier, and a pervasive fear if not terror made it nearly impossible to gain any ground in the reporting. When we finally do get to hear from one of the men who appeared in one of the videos, we finally understand what these men, and all those associated with this activity were afraid of. Anyone who attempts to criticize or turn away from the production company sees their lives begin to self destruct. Jobs are lost. Opportunities vanish. Lies about behavior, criminality, sexuality begin to spread. The internet becomes a mortal enemy from which there is no escape.
Then things get weirder. I don’t want to say too much because it would spoil the viewing experience. Let’s just say that the person hiding behind the curtain in this Oz-ian nightmare is just the tip of the weird iceberg. The filmmakers do a good job at making this film palatable and intriguing. The film feels complete in spite of the many, many questions it leaves you with. The only thing for sure is that while the beginning of this film is charming and even funny in its absurdity, by halfway through the viewing experience you, and nobody else, will be laughing.
Oh, and tickling has been ruined for me forever. Just a heads up.