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Reviews: Docs ‘Satan & Adam,’ ‘Breaking Habits’ and ‘Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise’

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Adam Gussow, left, and Mr. Satan (formerly known as Sterling Magee) in the documentary “Satan & Adam.”
(Cargo Film & Releasing)

‘Satan & Adam’

The oddball musical bromance between a black Mississippi-born blues singer and a Jewish grad school dropout who met on the pre-gentrified streets of Harlem is poignantly examined in V. Scott Balcerek’s truly soul-stirring “Satan & Adam.”

Having broken up with a girlfriend, Adam Gussow was healing his emotional wounds playing harmonica in the subway station when he first crossed paths with Mr. Satan, a one-man band of a local legend who played guitar for the likes of Etta James, James Brown and Marvin Gaye back when he was known as Sterling Magee.

The duo would soon gain a following, including U2’s the Edge and director Phil Joanou, who would include their signature song, “Freedom for My People,” in the 1988 concert film “Rattle and Hum.”

But, given that it was the late 1980s and Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” had just come out, incisively capturing the racial tensions of the day, the sight of a white boy accompanying the older musician on his home turf wasn’t necessarily embraced by passersby, who wondered whether his new apprentice was helping him or stealing the music.

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World tours and record deals would follow, as would inevitable personal issues that would drive them apart, but over the course of the 23 years it would take Balcerek to make the film, their unconventional professional collaboration and sustained friendship serves as a moving testament to the boundary-shattering language of music.

—Michael Rechtshaffen

‘Satan & Adam’

Not rated

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Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes

Playing: Starts April 19, Laemmle Glendale

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‘Breaking Habits’

Sister Kate in a scene from “Breaking Habits.” Credit: Good Deed Entertainment
Sister Kate in the documentary "Breaking Habits."
(Good Deed Entertainment)

Writer-director Robert Ryan knew a good story when he found it in the twisty, involving journey of Sister Kate, a “self-declared, self-empowered, anarchist-activist nun” and medical marijuana entrepreneur.

She’s the compelling, forthright star of the lively documentary “Breaking Habits,” which tracks the Wisconsin native’s fraught path from globe-trotting business analyst to the founder of a nonprofit cannabis collective and, later, Sisters of the Valley, an entity dedicated to delivering cannabidiol (CBD)-based health and healing products “to the people.”

Betrayed by her husband, the former Christine Meeusen relocated with her kids to Merced, Calif., where, after hitting bottom, she bounced back as a cannabis grower only to be thwarted by local police, faith leaders, violent thieves and unfriendly laws.

A lobbyist eventually helped her establish Sisters of the Valley as a fully legal business, which, with the help of a circle of other wimple-wearing “weed nuns” (Kate first donned a habit as a “statement” but kept it going), she built into the reportedly profitable, impactful, jobs-creating operation in California’s second-poorest county.

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Ryan jauntily recounts Kate’s wild ride via candid interviews with his gutsy protagonist, Kate’s adult son, her disruptive brother, several of her “Sisters” (they take vows, but not to the church) and other co-workers, plus such naysayers as an old-school sheriff and a fiery preacher. It’s a stirring, unusually inspiring tale.

—Gary Goldstein

‘Breaking Habits’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Playing: Starts April 19, Arena Cinelounge, Hollywood; also on VOD

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‘Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise’

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Director Jennifer Townsend and "Thelma & Louise" editor Thom Noble in the documentary "Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise."
(Far Beyond Film)
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Decades after it opened in theaters, “Thelma & Louise” remains a cultural touchstone, but it’s much more than that for 80-year-old first-time filmmaker Jennifer Townsend. When the landmark feminist film was released in 1991, Townsend began a research project that finally comes to fruition with the documentary “Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise.”

Townsend gathered reactions to the film from viewers across the country, but snail mail made it a lengthy process and the effort stalled. With this film, she revisits the answers she received and speaks with those who responded on both their initial reactions to “Thelma & Louise” as well as how their thinking has evolved in the years since they first saw the movie.

In addition to interviews with experts and the women who answered the original questionnaire in the 1990s, Townsend also gets Thom Noble, the editor of “Thelma & Louise,” as well as actors Christopher McDonald, who co-starred as Thelma’s husband, and Marco St. John, who appeared as the trucker. A number of clips from the film illustrate her points well and remind the audience of how revolutionary it was for its time.

Ridley Scott’s classic raised questions we’re discussing today around feminism and the #MeToo movement, making “Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise” so relevant. This documentary offers thoughtful insight throughout, but even faithful fans of the film may find its nearly 90-minute running time overlong.

—Kimber Myers

‘Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Playing: Starts April 19, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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