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Tickled is one of the most bizarre and riveting documentaries of the year, but the real-life story unfolding around the film is also getting stranger by the day.

Last night at a Tickled Q&A in Los Angeles, the film’s co-director Dylan Reeve encountered a surprise: several people featured in the documentary showed up for the screening. Hit the jump for the cringe-worthy video that resulted, and some thoughts from co-director David Farrier on how he feels about proceeding with the film’s release. Massive SPOILERS for the Tickled documentary follow (If it’s playing in a theater near you, you should see it. It’s great).

Tickled begins as an exploration of the underground world of “Competitive Endurance Tickling,” but soon becomes about uncovering the person behind these “competitions,” videos of which have allegedly been used as means to harass people and ruin their lives. The film alleges that David D’Amato is behind these activities, who is portrayed in the film as having nearly limitless resources to create and a maintain a series of underground “tickle cells.”

David D’Amato and several of his colleagues showed up for the screening. While the film was still showing, there was a confrontation between Kevin Clarke, one of D’Amato’s colleagues and defenders, and co-director Reeve, video of which Magnolia put on their Facebook page (the first part of this video is filmed sideways).

Later, during the Q&A, D’amato himself actually made an appearance. The compelling nature of such an appearance cannot be understated; this would be like watching The Thin Blue Line, only to have David Ray Harris show up at the Q&A. Over at his Facebook and Twitter pages, Tickled co-director David Farrier transcribed some of D’Amato’s remarks during the event:

I have a good speaking voice. I want to repeat to the audience what I said to you. Welcome to Los Angeles. I hope that this film has a long and successful run in this country. Because I think that life is a learning experience, and that you are going to learn a great deal about things as a result of this… and I am not necessarily talking about what a battle in the US Civil Court is like…

Please, if you are being funded, if you are being helped, whatever: Obtain criminal council sooner than later because there are going to be questions asked along those lines. And even misdemeanors, things that you would call summary offenses, they do add up and they do become troublesome. Lastly, I do have to credit you, that while your facts are very discordant, some of the effects in the movie: The music, the choreography, it was done very well.

These remarks constitute a thinly veiled threat on the filmmakers’ livelihoods and well-being. I spoke with Farrier today over Skype to get his take on the topic.

“I don’t feel happy about the situation,” Farrier told me, with a calmness I certainly wouldn’t possess if I were in his shoes. “I don’t feel completely at ease with it, because these threats have just sort of increased. [D’Amato] told Dylan last night that Dylan will be in prison and the he should think about his family. Dylan’s got young kids. It’s not nice stuff to hear, and you’re hearing it from someone who has a lot of money.”

The reason Farrier even made the film was both out of a sense of curiosity and out of a desire to prevent people from getting involved in the tickling videos.

“We stand by the film. We think it’s an important story to be told. This has been going on for over 20 years now. It just seems like this film — the more people that see it, the more chance that people are going to think twice before they do a tickling competition, or get into anything on the internet that they aren’t absolutely confident about. And also hopefully that this is stopped. If it’s out in front of enough people, then it’s our thought that surely an authority will step in and something will be done to stop this.”

Farrier added:

“Essentially, I am just very curious about these things. I was curious about this two years ago, and I’m still curious why everyone is behaving in this way, because it’s just so over the top. And I have to keep reminding myself that it’s all over tickling videos.”

Tickled is in limited release in theaters right now. 

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