One Man in the Band
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A year or so ago, I fell in love with Air Guitar Nation, a quirky documentary about the American competitors in the Air Guitar World Championship. And after reading the synopsis of One Man in the Band, I thought it would be more of the same. But I soon discovered that quirky characters don’t always make for an interesting documentary.

One Man in the Band is a British documentary about one-man (or one-woman) bands—those performers who play a number of different instruments…all at the same time. These musicians come in all shapes, sizes, and musical styles—from the eerie sci-fi sound of Man from Uranus to eclectic Ninki to the crazy percussion of Duracell.

The film features interviews with several of these solo performers—some in passing, some in more detail—who discuss everything from their unusual musical instruments to their solitary lifestyle to how they ended up performing on their own.

Most of the musicians interviewed for the film are definitely unusual characters. They play unusual (and sometimes intriguingly homemade) instruments, and most of them have eccentric personalities. Yet, much to my dismay, the fact that they’re eccentric doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re interesting. On the contrary, most of them are actually rather dull. And, as I soon realized, many of these people are most likely in a one man band for a very good reason: because they’re not all that sociable. Many of them are introverted and quiet—and they just don’t have a whole lot to say. They’re the kind of people that you can picture holed up in their parents’ basement at 45, playing their weird instruments for an audience of cats. I’m sure there are some more outgoing (and interesting) solo musicians out there—but they’re not featured in this movie. Or if they’re there, they don’t get much coverage.

But perhaps part of the reason for my lack of interest in the film lies in the fact that it fails to tell a story—or make much of a point. Instead, it feels like a random collection of clips of random interviews, put together with no real flow and no real reason. It just shows some people playing (and talking about) some instruments, and then it’s over.

While I expected the subject matter (and the subjects) to be quirky and interesting, One Man in the Band was, instead, a random and rather sleepy movie. Of the 15 movies that I saw at this year’s Cleveland International Film Festival, it was the only one during which I seriously contemplated getting up and walking out. And, in hindsight, I kinda wish I had. I could have used the extra sleep.

Ed. Note: For more on One Man in the Band, visit

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