Monday, October 3, 2016
New York Film Festival 2016: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, I Called Him Morgan, & Uncle Howard
Steve James displays his usual savvy for picking culturally resonant topics in his latest documentary, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. This time it's the oddly underreported story of Abacus, the eponymous family-owned Chinatown business, which is the only U.S. bank ever indicted for fraud in connection with the subprime mortgage scandal of the late 2000s. The rest of the film's title comes from journalist Matt Taibbi, who explains that the banks actually responsible for the crisis were all deemed “too big to fail,” so none were prosecuted for their crimes. “Too big to fail translates to small enough to jail, and Abacus is small enough to jail,” he says.
After charging Abacus and 19 individuals who worked there, prosecutor Cyrus Vance’s law office pressured the defendants to plead guilty, but the Sung family who owned the bank took the risky path of going to trial instead, insisting on their innocence. As Mr. Sung and his four daughters, all of whom had left other jobs to help their father at the bank, explain, they wanted to fight for the family’s honor. They also insist that they felt obligated to save the bank—which Mr. Sung founded after finding that all the banks then in Chinatown were happy to take his money but refused to give him a loan—for the sake of the community that depended on it.
Read the rest on The House Next Door