Watch Abacus: Small Enough to Jail Online

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Where to Watch Abacus: Small Enough to Jail


Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is an intriguing 2016 documentary film directed by accomplished filmmaker Steve James, known for his insightful portrayals of American life. The central figures of this thought-provoking piece are Thomas Sung and his family, who run Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York City. This riveting documentary provides an inside look into the family business with intimate and revealing interviews with Sung, his wife Hwei Lin Sung, and their daughters, along with a key figure in the case against them, Cyrus Vance Jr., Manhattan's District Attorney.

The film opens up a unique perspective into this banking institution that operates out of the heart of Chinatown's bustling streets. Established by Thomas Sung himself, a former lawyer, this community bank was meant to cater to the financial needs of the local immigrant population that was often overlooked by major banks. For the Sungs, Abacus was more than just a commercial pursuit. It was a pillar of their community.

The conflict arose in 2008 when Abacus was embroiled in a mortgage fraud scandal. It became the only US bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, an event that shook the world and had a major impact on the global economy. What's interesting and dramatic about Abacus' story is how it contrasts with the major financial institutions who, despite their massive involvement in precipitating the financial crisis, went largely unscathed.

As the Sungs struggled to clear their name in a five-year legal battle, the documentary delves into how they embody the true spirit of the American dream, battling oppression and injustice. The Sungs were immigrants themselves, having moved from China, and Abacus was founded based on their ambition, hard work, and dedication.

Although the film is about a bank, at heart it is a family drama. The audience gets access to intimate family gatherings, engaging conversations and heated arguments. This allows the movie to explore the personal side of the ordeal and the emotional toll it took on the Sung family, with Thomas and his wife Hwei Lin at the heart of it.

The Sungs represent underdogs taking on the colossal judicial and financial systems, in a legal battle loaded with racial, cultural, and societal implications. Director Steve James presents a sobering reflection on the disparity in America’s justice system, offering a critique of the treatment of small businesses versus corporate behemoths. He suggests larger forces at play in holding up this small bank as a scapegoat, while larger, more significant players were seemingly immune to prosecution.

The drama is intensified through compelling courtroom action. James employs an effective use of re-enactments of courtroom proceedings to complement interviews and cine-verite style footage, making us privy to important proceedings that cameras were not allowed to capture directly.

The film also features Cyrus Vance Jr., representing the prosecution. Interviews with him provide a comprehensive view of the controversial case, allowing the audience to get a balanced perspective on the proceedings. Vance Jr. stands by his decision to prosecute, yet his interviews and the questions posed by James, help to highlight the larger issues surrounding the case.

From a visual perspective, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail keenly captures the life, color, and vibrancy of New York's Chinatown. From the noodle bars and fish markets on the busy streets to the banking halls where we see the Sungs serve their community, the cinematography is stunning and contributes to the authentic feel of the film.

This film is not only a detailed examination of a legal and financial scandal but also a celebration of an immigrant family's resilience in the face of adversity. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the moving story of the Sungs, who stand against a system that seems stacked against them. It is an engaging, multi-faceted documentary that manages to portray an often-overlooked side of the financial crisis, presenting a saga of endurance, community, and integrity.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a Documentary movie released in 2016. It has a runtime of 88 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.1. It also holds a MetaScore of 73.

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Steve James
Neil Barofsky, Ti-Hua Chang, Jiayang Fan
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