Years ago if someone stated there would be air guitar competitions, people would have laughed. Now, in a day and age where reality programs and competitions rule, it's not surprising air guitar has become so increasingly popular that it inspired a documentary titled "Air Guitar Nation." Even more shocking than that, this docu turned out to be one of the best movies you will see all year.
The documentary by Alexandra Lipsitz centers on air guitar heroes C-Diddy and Bjorn Toroque as they compete in East and West coast challenges before venturing to the air guitar world championship in Finland. C-Diddy and Bjorn aren't the only competitors we meet along the way. Players from all over the world are shown. Some of the more interesting acts were the strange foreigner playing air guitar nude and Benjamin Walkin- a man with a clever wheelchair gimmick.
With such a silly premise, one would think this would be a documentary that belittles its subjects, much like "American Idol" judges do to contestants during the soul-crushing tryouts. Thankfully, the filmmakers treat their subjects with nothing but respect. Believe it or not, you are virtually guaranteed to become emotionally invested in C-Diddy and Bjorn. They aren't 2 whackos with delusions of grandeur. They are average joes with a hobby they enjoy. Sure, Bjorn might take air guitar too seriously at times (especially when he loses two challenges and doesn't give up.) However, his quest to win makes a fascinating watch. It's also fun to note that Bjorn, unlike most air guitar competitors, can play a real guitar and has even played in a band. As a man pointed out in a deleted scene, "Why is he playing air guitar then?"
As for C-Diddy, his performances are a blast. Since he is an actor and comedian in real life, he certainly has an advantage over the other competitors. Creating another persona comes natural to him and it shows. When Diddy is on stage, he exudes confidence and he quite simply wipes the floor with everyone else. He's that good.
Some might argue the outcome of the championship is easy to predict, but it doesn't make the movie any less entertaining. I was still eager to see how different country representatives approached air guitar, if Bjorn could pull out a win, etc. As the saying goes, it's not about who wins or loses, it's how the game is played.
For me, the most satisfying part of the film was coming away with a new perspective on air guitar. Air guitar is not merely the act of using your imagination, it's a peaceful and liberating activity that anyone anywhere can participate in. No one can mock or criticize you for your air guitar, air drumming (as I prefer), air saxophoning, because the act is simply an individual's expression of the music as they hear it. As long as the hobby doesn't drastically consume one's life, all is well.
As expected with any documentary film, some footage looks better than others. Scenes with the air guitar competitors on stage clearly stand out more than past poor quality footage from previous competitions. But really, the quality does not matter. The content is the main attraction.
The 5.1 Dolby Digial Surround Sound rocked my friggin socks off (to quote TENACIOUS D). Not only does the film boast a killer soundtrack by the likes of THE WHO, THE DARKNESS, and THE SMASHING PUMPKINS, but the documentary subjects are never hard to hear. The songs never overpower the dialogue. The sound crew did an admirable job here.
The disk does not skip out on the good stuff. There are 4 Docudrama trailers, a theatrical trailer, and best of all- 37 minutes of deleted scenes mostly consisting of additional performances, extended sequences, and an update on Bjorn and C-Diddy's lives. While some footage such as longer scenes of the air guitar boot camp are a waste of time, others like Bjorn at a book signing should have been integrated into the film. In the deleted Bjorn footage, we learn more about him and see a livelier, more personable side of him. Watching these scenes made me realize that Bjorn was slightly mis-represented in the film. At times he was made to look like a crazed air guitar fanatic, but really air guitar was more of a spiritual way of life for him. He even manages to make a living off of his passion.
With each passing year, I am becoming more and more convinced that documentary films are far more rewarding than most any multiplex releases. "Air Guitar Nation" further proves my theory. See it and share it with others. You will be glad you did.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.