Director of Netflix's 'Keepers' talks Sister Cathy's murder – and Baltimore women who stayed on case

Secrets within secrets, crimes upon crimes, layers upon layers and journeys within journeys.

That’s the way documentary filmmaker Ryan White talks about his Netflix docuseries “The Keepers,” which revisits the unsolved murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, a Baltimore nun who went missing in 1969.

There is nothing simple or black-and-white about the way he sees this dark Baltimore story that has refused to go away for almost half a century. Thanks in part to social media, it seems more discussed now than it has been for decades. That conversation is only going to get more intense when Netflix makes all seven parts of the series available May 19.

“There’s definitely a large focus on the murder of Catherine Cesnik and the details surrounding that murder,” he said in a telephone interview this week about the series. “But what we discovered during the filmmaking process is that everything wasn’t as it appeared to be. There were a lot of layers that if you peeled them back went a lot deeper.”

While the murder of Cesnik is the most visible crime, White says the film also dives deep on what he calls “foundational crimes that were happening before and after and still filter down to today and may be linked to her murder.”

A lot of directors might just saddle up and ride those proven thoroughbreds to the finish line. The series hasn’t been made available to me yet, but White appears to have gone beyond with narratives like the one focused on the Baltimore-based justice group.

“A major theme of this series is justice and injustice, and I believe, as an outsider having witnessed it now, that so many of the institutions and people that are tasked with protecting citizens or protecting children failed these people — and have failed them repeatedly over the last 45 years,” White said.

“And, in many cases, they’ve buried that truth,” he added. “So, what this grassroots movement has done is to allow some sense of justice — not literal justice or our typical definition of what justice means — but has allowed a kind of community justice for these people who know this has happened to them.”

White said the story of these women is “a real tribute” to the people of Baltimore.

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