Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the saga of the Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings in Chinatown, NY. Accused of mortgage fraud by a Manhattan District Attorney, 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.
Directed by the venerable Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie, Life Itself) and produced by Kartemquin Films (recognized with RiverRun’s 2014 Master of Cinema award), this sensational documentary shines a much needed light on the hypocrisy of the one of the smallest banks in the country (2,651st largest at the time) being the only bank made an example of when the largest banks in the country were being bailed out. Using his deft directorial hand, James has created a captivating portrait of one small family’s uphill battle against their own internal corruption, discovered during the trial, and against what seems an unwinnable case against the state.