Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. 2017. USA. Directed by Steve James. 90 min.

Documentarian Steve James (Hoop DreamsLife Itself) turned his razor-sharp lens toward the 2008 financial crisis and came across a story both startling and sadly inevitable. Though the giant U.S. banks – deemed “too big to fail” – somehow avoided having criminal charges leveled at them in the wake of the financial meltdown, there was one, small, family-owned bank that wasn’t so lucky: Abacus Federal Savings. Located in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Abacus Savings had the distinction of being the only U.S. bank indicted on criminal mortgage fraud charges directly related to the financial crisis. Founded in 1984 by Shanghai-born lawyer Thomas Sung, the family-run Abacus Savings – serving the Chinese immigrant community and other local residents – was forced to defend itself over the course of a complicated five-year legal ordeal. Moving, funny, alarming and absorbing, Abacus offers a whole new look at a nightmare many of us have filed away and forgotten.

“An exemplary piece of filmmaking.” –Tom Charity, Sight & Sound


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