The Keeper

Director: Joe Brewster
Screenwriters: Joe Brewster

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


The intense and mysterious French actor, Isaach de Bankolé (Chocolat; Night on Earth; No Fear, No Die) stars with the multitalented Giancarlo Esposito (Do the Right Thing; Fresh) in this powerful film about spiritual fraternity and cultural denial. Directed by Joe Brewster, The Keeper opens with circling shots around an interrogation table, a burnt orange wash set against the black, nebulous background. The story unfolds out of darkness and claustrophobic spaces—a law library, a Haitian dance club, hallways, and jail cells. De Bankolé’s Jean Baptiste, a baker and Haitian immigrant, is accused of rape, while Esposito’s lawman studying-for-law-school Paul Lamont believes he is innocent.

Unlike his co-workers at the King County House of Detention, Paul is appalled by the never-ending parade of crooks and scoundrels caught in a criminal-justice revolving door that does not promote change. When Jean tries to hang himself in jail, Paul saves his life and puts up bail money. Paul thinks that’s the last he’ll see of Jean—a good deed done, a small redemption, something to stave off a past ghost—but a few days later, Jean shows up on his doorstep. Angela (Regina Taylor), Paul’s wife, objects to his staying with them, then compromises. Jean, a poor, humble, family man who supports his two children in Port-au-Prince, eventually becomes a positive force for the Lamonts as he introduces them to his Haitian culture and religion, but he also reminds Paul of his Haitian father, of whom he is ashamed and whose existence he all but denies.

Like the woman entranced in the excellently edited, frenzied dance scene at the Haitian club, the film takes a hypnotic turn. Paul’s work starts to get to him. Instead of absorbing Jean’s spiritual religion, Paul is initiated into a rage culture, inherently tied to his camaraderie at work, which eventually engulfs him.

— Genevieve Villaflor

Screening Details

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