A man in Adidas sportswear is strapped to a mattress. Three other guys on the bed are tickling him while he squirms and giggles. This is the weird video clip that sparked New Zealand reporter David Farrier’s interest in the world of ‘competitive tickling’.
While ‘Tickled’ opens as a fizzy look at a funny viral news story, it deepens into the study of a dark world of fetish, control, deceit and extortion. The doc follows Farrier as he contacts the organisers of a tickling championship in LA and is met with a barrage of homophobic abuse and the threat of a legal action – and that’s just the start.
The real turning point is his conversation with a football player and one-time ‘tickling athlete’ who alleges that he became the victim of an online campaign to destroy his image when he decided to quit. Then it just gets darker and darker as Farrier attempts to track down the head honcho behind the company.
The documentary twists and turns like a guy getting his armpits tickled, but its driving force is Farrier’s personal determination to reveal the manipulation of the athletes involved. It’s unexpected and brilliant.