Air Guitar Nation
2007, R, 81 min. Directed by Alexandra Lipsitz.
REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., April 13, 2007
Flat out, Air Guitar Nation (winner of the Audience Award at South by Southwest 06) is a damn good time. Following the inception of the U.S. Air Guitar Championships (founded by Cedric Devitt and Kriston Rucker) through the 2003 World Championship in Oulu, Finland, the film is a lovingly hilarious portrait of a bizarre and endearing pastime. Beginning in New York, the story commences with the East and West Coast contests, which will determine the American champ, who is sent to the world competition. The performances immediately resonate as a strange mix of performance art and fantasy rock, alternately hilarious and inspiring. There’s the government budget analyst, whose stage persona incorporates a Sunset Strip, Eighties glam-metal look. There’s the guy dressed in black leather and a T-shirt that reads “God Rocks,” who performs in a wheelchair, only to use the chair as part of his act. There are nude performers, acrobatic ones, and competitors from most of Western Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Ultimately, two distinct front-runners emerge. C-Diddy (David S. Jung), the Korean-American sporting red Lycra pants and a Hello Kitty breastplate, repeatedly threatens to release his “Asian fury” upon the screaming crowd. And indeed, his precision, wild moves, and general “airness” (defined as “the extent to which the performance transcends the medium and becomes a higher form of artistic expression”) rocks every contest. And any good hero must have a good nemesis. For C-Diddy, it’s Björn Türoque (Dan Crane), the perpetual runner-up who won’t take no for an answer. A diva, a dreamer, and an air-guitar addict, Türoque emerges as both endearing and obsessive. Director Lipsitz’s clear passion for the material results in a genuine good time. The film never mocks the participants but celebrates the weirdness. Indeed, the tone seems to laugh both at and with the competition, all the while somehow managing to honor the belief that “air guitar is not simply an art form. It may save the world.” As Rucker tellingly observes early in the film, “It sounds like a joke, but it’s the kind of joke that when you tell it 100,000 times, you start to forget that it’s a joke and you kind of believe it.”