David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s documentary Tickled, which made quite a buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Fest, follows both filmmakers on the path of a mysterious online tickling competition that becomes a threat to those involved in the form of Internet bullying. The duo investigates the outcome of this strange situation apparently uncovering international conspiracy.
Tickled was hailed, since it premiered, as a successful documentary in investigative journalism, which is far from the truth.
Right from the start, Tickledis simple entertainment, by its (funny) starting point (the Tickling Competition), its treatment and the way it is fabricated with all the manners of a manipulative drama (heavy music, nervous cameras and editing) where there is actually not much drama except the one they create. The entertainment value (it’s fairly made) wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t introduced as a proper and serious investigation documentary.
At one point, Farrier and Reeve apparently do extensive research to discover where is the next hidden happening. But we are shown almost nothing of the actual process leading to this imminent discovery.
We get our share of convenient retired minor journalists (one seems in fact more like an unfunny stand up – he can be found on the Net) speaking and showing menacing letters that could easily be forgery. The perfect timings (that I won’t disclose here since it would be spoilers) to catch some Big Fish and the lack of real substantial factual content about it is also pretty convenient. There are, deliberately, few in-depth details, for a 90-minute piece, about the protagonists: where they really come from, where they go, how difficult it was to get on with their life after the events. No clear consequences are described regarding the football player who is blackmailed. Nothing really tangible gets out of all this. If we look closely into it, the filmmakers stay on the speculative side of their initial research and put on a smoke show to hide the fact that they came short in order to deliver a film.
Lots of stories, involving screenings infiltrated by “enemies” of the movie trying to intimidate, run on their website and in the papers. Strangely, they sound like part of their advertising campaign making us wondering if they actually hired people to put on a live show to get more hype.
By extension, Tickled could underscore the dangers of social media or cyber criminals using people’s image in threatening ways. But what’s so original about that part of the subject? Not much.
The lack of serious and precise points (there is a lot of insignificant running around during the 90-minute length) leaves many questions not properly answered. The directors put too much energy on entertaining or even chilling stuff they partly made up. Not much space is left to deliver undeniable journalist facts.
With Tickled, something is definitely … tickling.