By Philip Clarke
CALGARY – At first blush, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Satan & Adam immediately sounds like some sort of envelope-pushing irreverent biblical sitcom that got unfairly cancelled after only one season. In the case of V. Scott Balcerek’s long gestating documentary however, Satan & Adam isn’t that at all. On the contrary, the documentary tells the story of two very disparate souls coming together to make some very influential music over the course of three decades.
One day in the middle of Harlem in 1986, Adam Gussow is wholly enraptured by the sweet sounds of Sterling Magee. Most people know him on the street solely under the moniker of the eyebrow-raising Mr. Satan. Underneath the rather eccentric exterior, Satan is a very sad and broken man who has turned his back on God, by becoming his self-appointed number one adversary. Against his initial hang-ups, Adam and his trusted harmonica join Satan on a journey of discovery and self-acceptance that neither of them could have ever anticipated.
From when they first meet to the last show they ever play together, Satan & Adam showcases the cradle to the grave story of their relationship. Balcerek’s documentary was painstaking to complete over the course of its twenty-three year-long journey. The amount of dedication and heart that it took to put the story together onscreen is impressive in its own right, and bleeds through in every single frame.
The documentary deftly covers a multitude of different and wide-ranging subject matter. Topics like gentrification, segregation, New York culture, philosophy, religion, and blues as it’s own type of music are discussed.
These two men suffer for their art in a world that has seemingly passed them by. The documentary clocks in at a brisk 79 minutes, and with everything it covers, it easily could be twice as long.
Satan & Adam is oftentimes intimately warm and at others entirely heart-wrenching, as life itself so often is. The film can be summed up by a raw parting speech from Satan himself: “Because all we have is our life. If you ain’t got your life, you ain’t got nothing.”
Satan & Adam will screen as part of the Calgary International Film Festival. Screenings will take place at Globe Cinema on September 25 at 6:30pm, and Eau Claire Cineplex on September 29 at 11:40am.
Calgary International Film Festival, CIFF, Eau Claire Cineplex, Globe Cinema, Satan & Adam