Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

  • The Ride The Ride


Film Info
Section:The Art of Impact
Running Time:88 min.
Director:Steve James
Producer:Mark Mitten
Julie Goldman
Cinematographer:Tom Bergmann
Editor:John Farbrother
David E. Simpson
Note Writer:Michael Fox


Exactly one U.S. bank was indicted in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage swindle that crashed the economy in 2008: diminutive Abacus Federal Savings Bank. “If you were going to pick a bank to pick on,” investigative reporter Matt Taibbi observes, “a family-owned company wedged between a couple of noodle shops in Chinatown is about as easy a target as you could possibly pick.” But the New York District Attorney’s office didn’t anticipate the fierceness with which founder Thomas Sung and his determined daughters (two of whom were top Abacus executives) would defend their honor and integrity through a five-year investigation and trial. Veteran documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams), cognizant of Abacus’ three-plus decades of service to its working-class constituency and the D.A.’s decision to prosecute a small, minority-owned institution while giving Wall Street a pass, takes a street-level approach that insinuates us into both the Chinese-American community and the Sung family dynamic.

In Person: Directors Jeff Adachi, Jim Choi (The Ride)

The Ride is co-presented by the Office of the Marin County Public Defender and Center for Asian American Media.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is co-presented by Center for Asian American Media.

Included Shorts

The Ride (15min) More

Additional Information

Steve James produced and directed Hoop Dreams, winner of every major critics prize as well as a Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Award. Other award-winning films include Stevie; the Independent Documentary Association Award-winning miniseries The New Americans; Tribeca Film Festival Grand Prize winner The War Tapes, which James produced and edited; At the Death House Door, co-directed with Peter Gilbert; No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson for ESPN’s Peabody-winning “30 for 30” series; and The Interrupters, which won an Emmy®, Independent Spirit Award and the DuPont Columbia Journalism Award, among others. James’ previous film, Life Itself, was nominated for two Emmy Awards and was named best documentary of the year by over a dozen critics associations, Rotten Tomatoes, the Critics’ Choice Awards, the National Board of Review and the Producers Guild of America.