This is a documentary which, I think, few will have heard of (though well received at Sundance) about an American organisation which must be about the weirdest that one can imagine.
It seeks to recruit young men (and its search is exclusively male-directed) to volunteer to be tied down and tickled - just that! There's no suggestion of eroticism or fetishism, and certainly no sexual activity.
New Zealand investigative reporter David Farrier, who specialises in unusual or 'wacky' subjects, comes across a recruiting advert for the company by chance and, thinking that it would make a good story as well as providing welcome free publicity to the firm, approaches them by e-mail. The response - from the organisation's boss, one 'Jane' of 'Jane O'Brien Media' - is utterly astonishing. She insists that the firm has absolutely nothing to do with catering for homosexual tastes (even though Farrier hadn't suggested that it might), repeats the line forcefully maintaining that homosexuals are 'disordered', and even calls Farrier a "faggot". Furthermore, in this rant she threatens him with legal action if he proceeds any further with his idea of making a documentary about the organisation.
Needless to say, this totally disproportionate and manic response gets the very opposite reaction from Farrier from the one desired, compelling him to dig deeper with the enlistment of computer whizz-kid buddy, Dylan Reeve. Shortly afterwards, a party of three fly from America into Auckland to engage in a legal confrontation, one of them particularly obnoxious and threatening. Of course all this intrigues Farrier and Reeve even more and before long they themselves start making visits to the U.S.A. to discover more about this company. What is its motivation? What purpose if not in the sexual market? Where does its income come from? And why had there been such a furiously intemperate response to his initial approach, which had obviously touched a raw nerve? (They also discover that would-be tickle-'victims' are lured into this 'web' by being presented with lavish gifts - tickets to rock concerts, having first class air tickets supplied and being put up in plush hotels, even being sent entire computers to keep! But - and this is additionally very strange - having completed their tickling session, there's no suggestion of their being blackmailed for money or, indeed, for anything else.)
They eventually track down just one of the tickling volunteers (others were apparently too reluctant to speak) who relates of how he found an unauthorised video on YouTube of his being tickled (always only in the conventional tickling spots - armpits, soles of feet, chest, stomach - though not the sex organs). When he got Yahoo to take the video down on the grounds of his not having given permission for it to be displayed, his world fell in. There was an immediate and extremely irate letter from 'Jane' warning him that as he had crossed the line (he wasn't aware there had been one), his life was now not going to be worth living - and then this very same video was published on every single video site available - and, not only that, his full name and address given, that of his employer, the clubs he belonged to - and with claims that not only was he unreliable and unbalanced but that he was also a child-molester! Letters detailing his supposed activities even started being sent through the mail to his mother saying that her son is a pervert! The devastating consequences to the young man's life have little need to detailed.
(Incidentally, Farrier, on one of his visits, does meet up with a genuine tickle-fetishist who provides such service to his 'clients', all above board, no threats or menaces, full discretion guaranteed - nothing at all wrong with that).
Meanwhile, another organisation like Jane's has also started business in America, this time run by a 'Terri' from a different company but working on the same lines, only whereas Jane's ticklers (the ones doing the tickling) were all young men, Terri's ticklers are young women, though the 'victims' are again exclusively male.
It would spoil things to say here what Farrier and Reeve's investigations eventually uncovered - and that only through their dogged determination to get to the bottom of it all. This film does keep one guessing because throughout we are very bit as curious as these two about what on earth is it all about - and why?
We get some answers about three quarters through but it's not until the very final minute or two and the end captions that there is a semblance of rationale presented. It's not entirely satisfactory but it does fill in most of the gaps, while still leaving one with a lack of total resolution.
I found it quite a gripping expose of a truly odd organisation, even though I left the cinema with an unpleasant aftertaste in knowing that complete justice hadn't been fully meted out to where it was due, something which recognised the damage which had been done to innocent lives...............7.
5 hours ago