ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail

This is another great documentary from Steve James, who also made “Life Itself” and the 30 for 30 on Allen Iverson’s Trial. I was also fortunate enough to interview the director about this film, so look for that in the near future!

Cinema Axis


Thomas Sung owns and operates Abacus Federal Savings Bank in New York’s Chinatown. The bank, with his daughters Jill (President & CEO) and Vera (Director), serves a clientele composed primarily of local small-business owners of Chinese descent, many first-generation Americans or direct immigrants. Hence, Abacus is an important part of this community, as it gives this cash-rich, credit-poor population access to high-quality financial products like savings accounts, safety deposit boxes, and loans – including mortgages.

But Steve James’s ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail isn’t simply a documentary on a successful community bank, because Abacus Federal Savings Banks holds the ignominious distinction of being the only US bank charged with mortgage fraud following the late 2000s Financial Crisis.

ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail documents the absurdity of the trial against Abacus by interweaving interviews with defendants, prosecutors, and even jurors. Courtroom drawings are used to liven up some of the testimony…

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