For about the first 10 minutes of Air Guitar Nation, now out on DVD, I seriously debated turning the thing off. This documentary is about the first annual U.S. Air Guitar Championships, and the American effort to "bring it" at the world competition in Finland, where air guitar contests are revered and where the "art" has been widespread in that country since the late 90s. I was having real trouble with the fact that there were only a few fleeting references to how absolutely ridiculous this topic is and that everybody involved—from its contestants to its leaders—seemed to be wholly aware of their own absurdity but demanded that their absurdity be taken seriously. One guy claims that air guitar is "the last pure art form," and he's not joking.
But once the movie magically morphs into a portrait of America's top air guitar contenders—Korean American David Jung, whose stage persona is a Hello Kitty breast plate-wearing "C-Diddy," and musician Dan Crane, also known as "Bjorn Turoque"—it becomes surprisingly poignant and layered. For me, Air Guitar Nation hints at some heady questions: Can a person be self-delusional when he's aware of his own self-delusion? And at what point does the earnestness of self-delusion because a legitimate reality?
The film, which I first heard about in the Kennelco Film Diary, is also an interesting portrait of an Asian American artist. Jung's relationship to his seemingly traditional parents is a typical one, and to watch their trust in him grow as he ascends the air guitar stairs is truly something.
As for Dan Crane, he is far too smart not to recognize the sheer absurdity of his own ambition, but he manages to force legitimacy and viability onto something so wrong by simply willing it to be right.
Madness or genius? You decide: