Netflix has quite some slip-ups recently with the cancellations of gender and racially inclusive Sense8 and the hip-hop homage The Get Down. But fear not, the streaming giant still has a few gems for us to binge-watch in the wee hours of the night.
Their latest true crime documentary, The Keepers, has been quite a hit among the critics. The series is based on the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnick in 1970in Baltimore, Maryland. The case doesn’t make sense at first. Sister Cathy taught at a local Catholic all-girls high school and had no enemies. One day, she just went shopping for her sister’s engagement present only to be seen again two months later, mutilated in a field in a neighboring town. Most of the details already reveal how Sister Cathy was murdered; it was all just a matter of why it happened.
Two students of Sister Cathy, Abbie Schaub and Gemma Hoskins, who were already in their 60’s, decide to unearth the case and solve it once and for all. But they didn’t realize that the cause of all this was darker and more complicated than expected. They found out that Father Joseph Maskell, the chaplain of the school, allegedly murdered Sister Cathy because she had caught wind of his sexual abuses to the students.
And the series goes on from that, following the accounts of the victims of Father Maskell and their trust in Sister Cathy as their hope. It’s commendable on how the producers exhausted their resources to piece together a complete narrative of the issue. Journalists, police officers, prosecutors, FBI officials, and even down to the neighbors of the murdered nun were interviewed. Disclosure of the information to the viewer was meticulously planned to build up the suspense, shock, and a lot of times anger. Even if it is a documentary, the viewer barely gets bored because it still has the essential flow of a suspense show. All without over-dramatic background music or intense close-ups on the interviewees’ faces.
There was a lot of respect towards the interviewees and this is what separates this true crime documentary from the rest. It lets the victims tell their own haunting stories, making it feel much more personal and horrific. There are tears and frustrated screams but there are also empty looks of despair that sadden and anger the viewer at the same time.
Two victims actually brought their cases to court in 1994. And, just like what happened in Spotlight, it’s never easy suing the Church. But it isn’t just the Church who’s at fault. The series exposes the lack of seriousness society gives towards sexual abuse victims. The two victims’ accounts were discredited and the accusations against them ring a bell up to now. They were ridiculously asked how to prove they were abused and if they had evidence. They were even shamed for making such allegations because of how money was involved. While the court is questioning the credibility of the victims, the Church did what it usually does with predator priests and began hiding Maskell wherever they could.
It isn’t just Sister Cathy’s memory that the show is keeping; it was what Sister Cathy was fighting against. The Keepers is an empowering series about women who are now old and bent but aren’t willing to give up the fight against not only the Church but the systemic discrimination against sexual abuse victims.
Photo courtesy of BBC
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