Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams, Stevie, The Interrupters, and Life Itself, brings his latest film to the Film Studies Center. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Despite the role of banks’ shady lending practices in causing the 2008 financial crisis—the worst economic period since the Great Depression—most banks escaped punishment, and indeed governments authorized huge bailouts to save them from collapse. Abacus was the sole exception. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Abacus was the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial force the Sung family to defend themselves—and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community—over the course of a five-year legal battle.
(Steve James, USA, 2016, 88 min., DCP)
Steve James' affiliation with Kartemquin began in 1987 with the start of production of Hoop Dreams, for which he served as director, producer, and co-editor. He has since then become one of the most acclaimed documentary makers of his generation, with noted works being Stevie, The New Americans, The War Tapes, At the Death House Door, The Interrupters, and most recently, Life Itself.