Exploring the Dark Side of Tickling in "Tickled"

In honour of TIFF, I knew I had to write about a movie this week. However, because TIFF intimidates the crap out of me (too many choices!), I’m not going to be writing about a film that is currently premiering at the festival, but it’s still a film only playing in a limited capacity.

This past Thursday, I went to go see the new documentary Tickled, about the seedy underbelly of the tickling industry. Didn’t know there was a tickling industry, let alone a seedy underbelly of one? David Farrier, journalist and director ofTickled, didn’t know either, but after attempting to contact the creator of a tickling video he happened upon online, he suddenly became the victim of intensely vitriolic homophobic threats which soon led to legal action. Someone didn’t want outsiders looking in to tickling.

The tickling videos that Farrier started to investigate were said to be part of "Competitive Endurance Tickling", a competition set up by Jane O'Brien Media. "Competitors" would tickle a tied up participant to... well, it's never quite explained to what end, but Farrier knew that this was a story he wanted to tell.

The film starts off lightly enough, since it all seems so absurd. Who could possibly be taking tickling seriously? It turns out… a lot of people. As the film goes on, the giggles start to turn into gasps as the movie takes a serious turn. By the end, everyone in my theatre was wide-eyed. No one was laughing anymore. David Farrier does a great job of narrator, director and star of the documentary. He seems so baffled by his discovery, yet his inability to let the bizarreness go makes the film incredibly compelling and at times, quite scary. There are so many twists and turns, I was left just as breathless as the tickling victims. I don't want to give away the ending, but know that it is worth the barreling through the bizarre and the discomfort of the adult tickling world. It is currently playing at the Bloor Hot Docs Theatre.