Netflix’s “The Keepers” is a harrowing look into abuse, crime and corruption and how it still permeates to the present day.
Sister Cathy Cesnik was murdered in 1970. For years, people assumed it was simply a case of wrong place, wrong time, but her students at Archbishop Keough High School began coming forward with startling allegations: Father Joseph Maskell at the school was habitually molesting students.
Now, confronting an ever-escalating truth, the survivors Maskell’s abuse tackle the central question: Did Sister Cathy know about the abuse and is that the reason for her death?
The documentary series brilliantly captures the independent investigation of Sister Cathy’s former students as they look into the circumstances surrounding her murder. Told in interviews and partial recreations, the series is able to put the viewer right in the middle of the story, a discomforting space to be sure.
The series asks important questions about what the church knew in regards to the abuse and the potential coverup that transpired, not only with the church, but the government itself. The series has a very straightforward viewpoint so partiality may be somewhat of an issue, but it is hard to find justification for the issues the filmmakers present.
Covering a murder nearly fifty years old, a central tenet of the story is the idea of memory. Are the repressed memories of the survivors reliable? What of the memories of people who knew Sister Cathy? Are people knowingly lying or have their memories simply faded over time? It’s an interesting examination.
“The Keepers” is not an easy watch, but a fascinating one. Real-life murder investigations always appeal to the sleuth in all of us, but the added weight of history and the pain of abuse puts “The Keepers” a notch above most.