The second in our TV AND TALKS Series: From director Ryan White (NFF alum with The Case Against 8, Serena, Good Ol’ Freda) comes a new, riveting seven-part documentary series about the unsolved murder of a nun and the horrific secrets and pain that linger nearly five decades after her death.
Sister Cathy Cesnik, a beloved nun and Catholic high school teacher in Baltimore, went missing on November 7, 1969. In the 1990s, one of Sister Cathy’s former students – a woman only known as “Jane Doe” – came forward to reveal her own harrowing story and disturbing details about Sister Cathy's case – but the truth still remained elusive. White pieces together a larger story that goes beyond the death of a beloved schoolteacher to encompass clergy abuse, repressed memories, and allegations of an extensive cover-up. The Keepers is a Netflix Original Documentary Series.
We're thrilled to present an episode of the series followed by a conversation with Ryan White and “Jane Doe” herself.
Read more with Ryan below, and join us for the screening and conversation on Sunday, June 25 at 11:45 am!
NFF: You have a personal connection to this material, correct? Could you tell us how the story came to you?
Ryan: My aunt went to the high school that is the epicenter of The Keepers. She was Sister Cathy's student and a classmate of Jane Doe. She told me about the story a few years ago and I went to Baltimore to meet Jane Doe. That's how it all began.
NFF: The "true crime" genre is having a bit of a renaissance - do you have thoughts about why that is?
Ryan: I think Americans are interested in justice, and they get particularly angry when they watch and experience these stories about injustice. If there's any common denominator of all these true crime series that have gained popularity, I think they are all stories of injustice and a lack of accountability.
NFF: The story here is unbelievably difficult and complicated - did you have a hard time staying objective as a filmmaker?
Ryan: I had to distance myself sometimes from the anger -- anger over what was done to the children and anger about the amount of corruption that's kept these stories buried. But I was also constantly reminding myself that I didn't have to live the pain that my subjects did -- so the least I could do was be a part of having their truths brought to light.
NFF: When you originally started working on The Keepers, did you always envision it as a multi-part show? Or was it meant to be a shorter, more contained movie, like your previous work?
Ryan: We began The Keepers before Serial, The Jinx, or Making A Murderer had come out, so there wasn't really a model yet for the episodic true crime format. But once each of those came out, we realized we might have some more dimensional ways to tell The Keepers. It was really good timing to have a true crime story that seemed to have so many layers and a distributor felt deserved a longer format.
NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?
Ryan: It's my fourth documentary to play here, so I'm thrilled to be back. But mostly I'm excited that Jane Doe will be joining me on stage and talking about her experience. It will be her first public appearance since the series came out last month.