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The title of Steve James’ new documentary “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” is a play on a phrase that was popularized during the 2008 financial crisis: that certain banks were “too big to fail” and had to be rescued by the United States government to stave off total economic collapse. Among the more shameful legacies of that period is confirmation that if you’re an executive of a multi-billion dollar international financial institution, nothing you do, no matter how stupid or willfully criminal, will result in anything worse than a comparatively minor fine, and you might not even have to pay that.
But if you’re a small, family-owned bank in Chinatown, well, it’s a different story. The titular bank is named for the Chinese calculator. It’s owned and run by the Sung family, Chinese-Americans who live in Greenwich, Connecticut and commute to Manhattan to oversee the flow of funds, the distribution of loans, the collection of payments and so forth. James, whose distinguished career includes “Hoop Dreams,” “At the Death House Door” and the recent Roger Ebert documentary “Life Itself,” has a knack for finding the universal within the specific, and often a much larger and more complex story nestled within a specific account of one event.
The incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves – and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community – over the course of a five-year legal battle.
The title of Steve James’ new documentary “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” is a play on a phrase that was popularized during the 2008 financial, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail movie reviews & Metacritic score: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a 2016 American documentary film by Steve James. The film centers … Abacus received generally positive reviews from critics