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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Keepers is a documentary series that investigates the 1969 murders of a Baltimore, Maryland, nun and a local woman. The focus on murder should alert parents that this series is not for young children, although the series isn't salacious or exploitative. The murders are not reenacted, but they are described in great (although not graphic) detail. Sexual abuse, pedophilia, and a potential cover-up by both law enforcement and the Catholic church all play a part in this story, so it may be particularly disturbing to young and/or sensitive viewers. Some scenes are scary: dark drives down the streets where Sister Cathy disappeared, shadowy shots of her apartment building with spooky music on the soundtrack. Otherwise, there's a little bit of cursing ("dammit," "hell," "son of a bitch"), the occasional adult drinking a glass of wine, and a sad story that adults and teens, particularly those who like true crime, should probably watch together and discuss after viewing.
What's the story?
When Sister Cathy Cesnik, a beloved nun and high school teacher in Baltimore, went shopping on November 7, 1969, her roommate expected her back in a few hours. Two months later her body was found -- and her death became the subject of a city scandal after a former student of Cathy's, "Jane Doe," came forward to say that she'd been sexually abused for years by the high school's chaplain and was taken to Sister Cathy's body and told, "See what happens when you say bad things about people." Now, nearly 40 years later, two more of Cathy's students are THE KEEPERS of her legacy, doggedly investigating her murder and what they believe is a cover-up by the Catholic church and local law enforcement.
Is it any good?
Gripping, moving, and shot through with sadness, this series is the best kind of true crime: It stimulates your empathy and makes you think. The story of the murders of Sister Cathy Cesnik and Joyce Malecki seems at first a simple one: dark roads, unsuspecting women, some faceless maniac. Tragic, but typical. But the twists start arriving at the end of The Keepers' first episode, masterfully doled out in a way made for binge-watching. A Jane Doe was only one of the weird aspects of this case, which was only sparsely reported outside of Baltimore
Meanwhile, we watch our lead pair of amateur investigators, Gemma Hoskins (described as a research "bulldog") and Abbie Schaub ("the intellectual"), cohorts and former classmates who were enchanted with the young nun who made English class so lively back in the late 1960s. Now in their sixties, Hoskins and Schaub use every tool in their arsenal to dig up clues: the local public library, interviews with former investigators and those who knew Malecki and Cesnik, even a Facebook group that invites the public to write in with information. As Hoskins tells us in the first episode, "We're going to do what we have to do to get justice." Nearly 50 years after they died, Cathy Cesnik and Joyce Malecki are certainly due that justice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Gemma and Abbie show courage and teamwork to further their investigation in The Keepers. What qualities does each have that make them an intrepid, resourceful team? Why are these important character strengths?
Why do people in this documentary mention frequently that both Joyce Malecki and Cathy Cesnik were attractive young women? Why does this matter? Does the repetition make you uncomfortably aware that this type of woman is most frequently the subject of criminal cases that are widely reported on?
The setting of this particular documentary -- Baltimore, Maryland -- plays a major part in this story. How does the show communicate its setting? How do you know that Baltimore is the city where these murders happened?
For kids who love documentaries
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