ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL

USA, 2016 (MIFF 2017, True Crime)

Director: Steve James

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL

A Few Good Men meets the GFC in Steve James' thrilling, up-close-and-personal account of the only bank that ever got prosecuted for this century's biggest economic meltdown.

In the wake of the GFC, the US Government only laid charges against a single bank: Abacus Federal Savings Bank in Manhattan's vibrant Chinatown district. A tiny, family-owned Chinese-American banking group with deep roots in China's emigrant community, Abacus was accused of rampant bribery and forging loan documents. But as the case goes to trial, the question of who knew what, and why this prosecution is even proceeding becomes increasingly murky – and the need for answers ever more urgent.

A riveting survey of modern America lensed through a kaleidoscope of immigration, family, finance and prejudice, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is the latest film from veteran documentarian Steve James (Life Itself, MIFF 2014; Hoop Dreams). A scathing indictment of the regulatory system, as well as a compassionate portrait of a family in turmoil, Abacus plays out with the taut intensity of a legal thriller, leaving you guessing until the very end.

'An exemplary piece of filmmaking… generates such humour and warmth it's almost too painful to contemplate the humiliation and ruin should the verdict go against them.' – Sight & Sound


See also...

STEVIE

Steve James (director of the international hit basketball doc, Hoop Dreams) first met Stevie Fielding in 1982. James joined the 'Big Brother' programme to mentor a hyperactive and difficult 11-year-ol... More »

LIFE ITSELF

"Far more than just a tribute to the career of the world's most famous and influential film critic, the often revelatory Life Itself is also a remarkably intimate portrait of a life well lived." – Chi... More »

A GRAY STATE

A rising alt-right filmmaker and his family are found slaughtered, surrounded by Islamic totems. A conspiracy or something even more horrific? ... FEMA death squads, children implanted with RFID chips... More »

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P JOHNSON

'A new investigation of a trans icon's 1992 death shines a light on a historically persecuted community in David France's superb documentary … illuminates the persistent discrimination that exists tod... More »

THE FAMILY I HAD

'Something special … one of the most harrowing portrayals of the self-destructive and tentative self-restoration of a southern American family this side of a William Faulkner novel.' – The Young Folks... More »

THE FORCE

A revealing, up-close-and-personal look at the day-to-day operations of the Oakland Police Department as it grapples with endemic corruption, sexism and racial violence. Winner of the documentary priz... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director