Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Film Review - 'Air Guitar Nation'

Have you ever dreamed of rocking out on stage in front of an adoring and enthusiastic crowd? Have you found yourself constantly being held back by a complete lack of any real musical talent? Well, this documentary film might have the answer you are looking for. Air guitar!

It all began back in 2003 with not one, but two, shocking realisations. First of all, that there is such a thing as an International Air Guitar Championship. And, second, that there has never been an American representative at this competition. Naturally, this leads almost immediately to the organisation of the first American championships – and, a surprising amount of interest from both competitors and an eager audience, that saw the small venue quickly filled to capacity, with many people having to be turned away. In this first competition, and the ones that followed, two stars quickly stood out – C-Diddy (aspiring actor and comedian David Jung) and Björn Türoque (Dan Crane – actual musician). The competition between the two is fierce, as each is determined to prove themselves as the first true American air guitar champion. And, their bitter rivalry is eventually carried to Finland and the next international championship, as they find themselves competing among the best air guitarists that the world has to offer.

So, which of these aspiring rock gods will prevail? Will the charismatic C-Diddy win out, or will he be overthrown by the intense and passionate Björn Türoque? And, will either of these new stars be able to win the crown as the next international air guitar champion? All of these questions and more (such as 'Huh?' and 'Air Guitar? What the hell?') will be answered in the documentary film Air Guitar Nation!

Of course, it all feels like a bit of a joke, really. The idea that something like air guitar could ever by treated with the level of seriousness that the people shown here seem to display would certainly have to seem strange. You could even be forgiven for assuming that Air Guitar Nation is actually a strange sort of Spinal Tap style mockumentary, and that all of these people are really actors. But, no – it's all real, and these are real people playing real (fake) guitars. Granted, they're real people who are all clearly having a great time – and, the extent to which this actually counts as 'serious' competition is definitely debatable. But, this is also clearly the entire point of the film - even though there is a sense in which those involved are treating it like a serious competition ("It's judged like figure-skating... and, it's probably less absurd to watch than figure-skating"), everyone involved approaches it with a level of good-natured humour. David Jung is clearly having a great time with his exaggerated Rock God persona, as C-Diddy. And, even though Dan Crane seems to inch awfully close to taking the whole thing a bit too seriously as Björn Türoque, there is still a strong sense that he is really only playing it up because he has a camera following him around. This same sense of fun is carried into the international community, as well – with everyone involved seeming to take a particular delight in playing up their Rock Star personae.

And, that sense of fun is carried through the whole film, too. Air Guitar Nation is easily one of the funniest documentaries I've ever seen. If you can approach it with that same level of absurd fun, then you're likely to enjoy the experience as much as everyone involved clearly is. If, on the other hand, the idea of grown adults strutting around on a stage pretending to play guitars causes you to roll your eyes and mutter about how these people 'clearly need to grow up', then this really isn't the film for you. One of the film's greatest strengths is that, while it clearly revels in the absurdity of the situation, it really doesn't seem to feel the need to direct any mockery at these people – and, you shouldn't either.

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