Shotgun Cinema presents TICKLED

By Shotgun CinemaPublished on 06/30/2016

With our second edition of the True Orleans Film Festival coming up in September, we wanted to whet your appetite for more documentaries with one of our favorite docs of the year: David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s truly outrageous Tickled. From its disruptive debut at the Sundance Film Festival, to a subpoena served to the filmmakers during a Q&A at the True/False Film Festival, to a confrontational opening in L.A., Tickled has drawn controversy and critical acclaim alike. We’re excited to host the New Orleans premiere, and even more excited to be showing it twice!

Normally with these blog posts, I try to provide some background on the film or the filmmakers in order to deepen your experience with our screening. In the case of Tickled, it’s best to go in blind: one of the most rewarding parts of this film is the bizarre and unexpected turns that we experience with the filmmakers. The story is simple: New Zealand journalist Farrier specializes in “news of the weird” stories, reporting with plucky, self-deprecating humor. (He’s also an openly gay man.) He stumbles across a bizarre video of competitive endurance tickling, reaches out to the makers for an interview – and receives a brutally nasty and threatening response. In turn, he responds like a journalist, beginning to investigate this bizarre organization. For as simple as the set-up is, Tickled launches into a complex and harrowing narrative. A narrative arc is a central feature to fiction and documentary films alike; in Tickled, it’s particularly thrilling, with editing that makes the film hilarious and then horrifying. And for a documentary that investigates the underworld of competitive endurance tickling, that’s quite a feat.

Another essential element of storytelling is character, and while Farrier and Reeve do an excellent job of uncovering and confronting bullying – which is the crux of what’s actually happening in the endurance tickling world – they’re just extremely likable guys from the first moment. So the unexpectedly bigoted response Farrier receives after requesting an interview seems extra uncalled for, and extra absurd. The timing for the release of this film fits right in with the atmosphere of political bullying and violent homophobia that’s being exposed with much more regularity, and Tickled is in this way a heroic film: it doesn’t hold back from exposing those who perpetuate such hatred and sadism. While the documentary confronts what on the surface seems like a pretty harmless fetish, it’s the film’s adamant approach to standing up for what’s right that makes this documentary such a unique one.

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