Air Guitar Nation



Docurama/Shadow Distribution

NEW YORK -- If you didn't know "Air Guitar Nation" was a documentary, you'd swear it was a mockumentary. This story about the world air guitar championships in Finland is occasionally as funny as "This Is Spinal Tap."

But unlike Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel, air guitarists can't turn their amplifiers up to 11. That's because they don't have amplifiers. In fact, they don't even have guitars.

Air guitarists are usually teenage boys who mime to their favorite guitarists in front of the bedroom mirror. But the participants in "Air Guitar Nation," a Magical Elves production, have taken it a few stages further. It's become a way of life. This documentary by Alexandra Lipsitz makes the most of its mirth-inducing subject by featuring frenzied stage performances and bizarre behind-the-scenes interviews.

The enthusiasm -- or should that be derangement? -- of the participants means that "Air Guitar" is often hilarious. It's a one-joke film, but despite a sag in the middle, there's enough oddity to keep it fresh for most of the 82 minutes. Cult success looks assured, and it should do good business on DVD.

It begins with a national competition to find an American air guitar hero to compete at the world championships in Finland. Two New Yorkers leap to the front of the pack: Asian-American C-Diddy (real name David Jung), an actor with a manic comedic style, and the more intense rock wannabe Bjorn Turock (real name Dan Crane). C-Diddy wins all the heats, but Turock just won't give up. He makes his way to Finland under his own steam to take on his rival.

It would be difficult to find a more flagrant bunch of exhibitionists in the rock scene proper. Bizarre scenes keep on coming. Aside from the performances, there are interviews with parents -- C-Diddy's wanted him to become a doctor -- lectures on air guitar as an art form, training camps to perfect air technique and a mayoral reception for contestants in Finland.

Production values are very good, with a tight edit by Conor O'Neill wringing the most out of some varied footage. It should also provide a boost to C-Diddy's fledgling career as a performer. The flamboyant performer might not have what it takes to be a real rocker, but a career as a comedian surely awaits.