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Air Guitar Nation (2006) - Movie Review

Air Guitar Nation

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

By

Air Guitar Nation (2006) - Movie Review

Air Guitar Nation DVD

© Shadow Distribution
This rollicking, high energy and somewhat goofy documentary makes you want to grab some air and play along.

Grab Some Air

Air Guitar Nation was initially conceived of as a reality TV show, projected to be an American Idol-like series about the first-ever U.S. Air Guitar Championships.

The plan was to follow American competitors as they battled each other to represent the United States in the World Air Guitar Championships in Oulu, Finland, where they would take on The Red Plectrum, The Torbinator, Mr. Metalilizer and other national champs for the international title of world’s best player of an imaginary instrument.

But reality TV show producers, the Magical Elves, backed off the project because clearing music rights was prohibitively expensive.

By that time, first-time director Alexandra Lipsitz was hooked on the subject and intrigued by characters with inventive, amusing noms de strum like C-Diddy, Bjorn Turocque and Krye Tuff.

Getting Hooked

C Diddy in Air Guitar Nation

© Shadow Distribution
Beginning in 2002, Lipsitz and a dedicated crew shot some 400 hours of air guitar performances, behind-the-scenes antics, interviews and background bites that they eventually delivered as this 81-minute documentary film about a surprisingly popular and profoundly quizzical worldwide phenomenon: Air Guitar.

If you are not air guitar buffs--and, quite honestly, how many of us are?-—you are probably trying to figure out just why anyone would want to pretend to play an imaginary guitar, and jump around wildly in front of a loudly cheering (or jeering) crowd.

C-Diddy (an Exeter-educated Brooklyn-born actor whose real name is David Jung) says it lets someone without the requisite musical talent (himself) be a rock star.

Dan "Bjorn Turoque" Crane, a Berkeley-born musician, composer, software developer and journalist, posits (with appealing self-derision) that "to err is human; to air guitar, divine," while his 80-something Nana, imitating his moves, likens Danny’s performances to mime. Some competitors suggest air guitar is an Olympics-level sport, others call it meditation. One proclaims it’s the perfect performance art because it’s invisible, transforming nothingness into something ephemerally tangible. Ok, if you say so.

Good Storytelling

Fact is, this documentary film is very entertaining, since Lipsitz knows how to tell a good story and—-by using short takes and an editing style worthy of MTV--she crafts a thoroughly engaging narrative with captivating characters who are smart, funny and full of surprises. (Turns out Krye Tuff has a hugely responsible day job as a government budget analyst. Who’da thunk it?).

Lipsitz also puts C-Diddy center stage often enough for viewers to recognize the consistency of his act; the gyrations and facial expressions are actually choreographed, and Diddy hits his marks every time. A tight and consistent act is essential to catch the judges’ attention since points are rewarded for the contestants’ moves, dexterity, musicality and the somewhat intangible quality known as "airness."

Make Air Not War

Much to her credit, Lipsitz presents the air guitar craze within the larger context of serious world events. She reveals that the Finnish students who founded the Air Guitar World Championships did so as an amusing spoof, but also proclaimed that if everyone in the world were holding air guitars, they couldn’t carry guns.

Similar points are made when Diddy and Bjorn admit concerns about the serious business of representing the United States—-not only the birth place of rock ’n’ roll, but also a principal gun-toter—in Finland, where they fear they may face anti-American sentiments because of current government policies.

The film’s self-deprecating humor allows the slightly silly "make air, not war" message to have a more profound impact.

Still, Air Guitar Nation’s main thrust is fun, and it’s a blast and a half of that. After seeing the film, you might find yourself plucking at an imaginary instrument from time to time and even wondering about your own quality of "airness."

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