Tuesday, 26 December 2017

TV72: The Keepers

The Keepers, directed by Ryan White, is a seven-part Netflix documentary about the unsolved murder of a popular (and outspoken) young nun (Sister Cathy Cesnik) at a girls’ school in Baltimore in 1969. The investigation is conducted by two of the school’s former students (Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Fitzgerald Schaub), making the documentary as much a story about them as about the murder. This makes the investigation much more personal and allows it to follow various paths, including the fact that the murder may have been a deliberate attempt to cover up the fact that Father Maskell (the school’s principal) had been sexually abusing girls for many years. 

The Keepers was critically-acclaimed, and for good reason: it is beautifully filmed, tells its stories in a unique and compelling way and covers a lot of ground on the subject of sexual abuse and its cover-up by the church and the Baltimore police. There are many moments of brilliance in the series and I do highly recommend it. However, I have one very large complaint about the documentary, which prevents any thought of awarding it four stars. I watch a lot of documentaries. A great many of them suffer from the same disease: Because they are often the work of thousands of hours, with a hundred hours or more of film, they are much longer than they need to be (usually twice as long). The Keepers is seven hours long and that is completely unnecessary. Some of the middle episodes are more than twice as long as they should have been. I think the full story could have been told just as effectively (if not more so) in three hours. So The Keepers gets ***+ for being a great (if anticlimactic) documentary, but it should have been even better. My mug is up.

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