Award-winning US documentarian Steve James (Life Itself, SFF 2014) is in top form in this captivating story of the only bank indicted following America's 2008 financial meltdown.
The Abacus Federal Savings Bank in New York's Chinatown is one of America's smallest banking institutions. Shanghai-born Thomas Sung founded it in 1984 (inspired in part by Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life) to provide his community with loans, a service routinely denied by other banks. Now 80, Thomas runs the company with the help of his three hard-working daughters. In 2010, the bank noticed irregularities in its mortgage books, and reported the matter to authorities. A lengthy legal battle ensued, driven by the New York District Attorney Office, and an eye-opening story of discrimination unfolded inside and outside of the courtroom. As the film suggests, perhaps Abacus wasn't 'too big to fail', but rather, 'small enough to jail'.
Whether bickering over dim sum or choking back tears over their latest legal setback, the Sung dynasty are pretty hard to dislike, sharing a classic second-generation immigrant credo of hard work and strong family values. – Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter
Believe it or not, Steve James has made a film about the housing crisis and financial meltdown that paints a bank and its founders as the little guy. Even that alone makes this a unique, worthwhile film. We often see portraits of financial institutions as the enemy, forgetting that many of the small ones have very human stories at their centre. A bank is the David here, and an overzealous prosecutor—and all that he represents—is the Goliath. – Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com