Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Steve James (2) (2016)

88min
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Review

Our Score
Documentary-maker Steve James has frequently focused on American attitudes to crime and punishment, and this intricate but accessible study seeks to put a human face on the 2008 credit crunch and its aftermath. Thomas Sung had founded the Abacus Federal Trading Bank in New York's Chinatown in 1984. But, while it had always played a positive role in the community, Abacus was charged with several counts of fraud, falsification and conspiracy by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R Vance Jr, who staged a march of his handcuffed suspects for the press in a bid to show his administration could be tough on financial miscreants. But Sung and his three daughters felt they were being persecuted rather than prosecuted and mounted a vigorous defence. James makes canny if corny use of Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life to contrast Abacus with the Wall Street behemoths that walked away from the crisis seemingly unscathed. Moreover, he makes canny contrasts between Vance's haughty team and the down-to-earth Sungs. But, for all the crowd-pleasing David v Goliathisms, this sometimes makes James's support for the underdog a little too blatant.

Cast & Crew

Thomas Sung Thomas Sung
Jill Sung Jill Sung
Vera Sung Vera Sung
Heather Sung Heather Sung
Cyrus Vance Jr Cyrus Vance Jr
Chanterelle Sung Chanterelle Sung
Director Steve James (2)
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Other Information

Language: English, Mandarin, Cantonese +subtitlesColourTheatrical distributor: DocHouseReleased on: 7 Jul 2017