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Air Guitar Nation (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Air Guitar Nation

Air Guitar Nation


Featuring David “C. Diddy” Jung, Dan “Björn Türoque” Crane, Hadia “Jam Toast” Ackerman, Lance “The Shred” Kasten, Ryan Kelly, John “Johnny Rocket” Fillon, Ralph “Rufus Sewer” Martin, John Daniel Harding Jr., Lucy “Snatchface” Harrison, Rory “Air Do Well” O’Flaherty, Craig “Czar” Zahler, Paul Fichera, Erika Szanto, Elena Berkowitz, Melinda Murphy, Julie “Super Julie” Schuck, Malla “Trans Am Mama” Slas, Michael “The Goober” Carroll, Winston “Kid Wicked” Story, Angela “Cherry Vanilla” Shelton, Shawn “Dick Maynard” Mason, Matthew “Air Biscuit” Johndrow, Sara “Nikki Tits” Szewyck, Gordon “Krye Tuff” Hintz, Lesa “Ms. AAA” Barnes, Dan “Aortight Messiah” Kapelovitz, Zac “The Magnet” Monro, Jordi “Funky Jordi” Niewenburg, Mark “Roxy McStagger” Hadfield, Kris “Stan Kreich” Achten, Mike “The Judge” Kaden, Ian “The Red Plectrum” Stafford, Hilkks “Gore Kitty” Suranto, Nancy Conrad, Janice Lubbin, Kook E, Jung MD, Hongja Jung, Kim Shapiro, Zoe Wolfe, Christian Finnegan, Jimmy Kimmel, Carson Daly, Nina Gordon and Tom Morello.

Directed by Alexandra Lipsitz.

Distributed by Docurama Films. 81 minutes.  Rated R.

The idea of an entire movie about air guitar – people pretending to play an instrument because they do not have the actual talent to play a real guitar – seems rather absurd.  Yet, Air Guitar Nation, while certainly slight and sometimes absolutely ridiculous, actually does make for very compelling viewing.

Perhaps that is because the filmmakers don’t take it too seriously.  (And how could they?)  Perhaps it is because the entrants of the International Air Guitar Championships take it entirely too seriously.  Maybe it’s just because with all of their foibles, they genuinely are personable guys.

Whatever.  Air Guitar Nation is much more entertaining than it really has any right to be.

Maybe it is simply that with the release of so many serious and life-altering documentaries like Sicko and No End In Sight, we need a chance to reflect on good old-fashioned American eccentricity and star lust.  (Concurrent with Air Guitar Nation’s video release is the theatrical release The King of Kong, a similarly tongue-in-cheek but fascinating look at nerd culture – people obsessed with the old arcade game Donkey Kong.)  

Maybe it is that in some primal way, we all can relate a bit.  Who hasn’t been moved by the music to rock out with wild abandon?  Air guitar – the miming of rock star moves in time to the music for the one or two people out there not familiar with the concept – is strangely freeing, a form of dance appreciation.

Of course, we did it in our bedroom in front of the mirror.  These guys are doing it on stage in front of a crowd of thousands.  We thought it was a goof.  They think it’s a form of performance art.

While I am not sure that the film has swayed me on its viability as a competition (no matter what, it seems like a non-talent sport, like eating competitions, lip-synching and miniature golf) I can appreciate the passion and hard work that these people pour into what other people would consider a trifle.

Air Guitar Nation follows the first two American entrants in the International Air Guitar Championships in Finland.  Yes, it turns out there actually is such a thing.  Who knew?  Apparently there is a small but growing cult that takes it very seriously.  (One of the guys says, with a completely straight face, “To err is human.  To air guitar, divine.”)

These two entrants are David Jung, who goes by the stage name “C. Diddy,” an actor/comedian who sees the whole thing as a bit of a goof, a good way to get some face time and have fun while learning to be on stage and play out his rock star fantasies.

His main competition is Dan Crane, a.k.a. “Björn Türoque” (Born To Rock – get it?  Okay, it’s not that great a gag…)  Each contestant has their own stage name and persona.  What is most interesting is that while these people are way too into what they are doing, for the most part they appear to be with-it, funny guys.  Okay, Björn Türoque did seem a little bit delusional, as well as a tiny bit of a sore loser, but most of the other contestants had a refreshing lack of pretension.

I actually was disappointed that one of the female contestants – with the in-your-face nickname “Nikki Tits” and a funny point of view playing off the whole sex-drugs-rock’n’roll lifestyle – didn’t get more face time, but I guess she couldn’t bring it when it came to the game…

Air Guitar Nation is to serious documentaries what reality TV is to the news.  It’s goofy, light, funny and celebrates the inner nerd in all of us.  (I could easily see this becoming a series on VH1.)  It may be a bit of a guilty pleasure, but at least it is a pleasure.  That’s all it ever aimed for.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007  All rights reserved.  Posted: September 1, 2007.

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