Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

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Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017)

Directed by Steve James

The story of the federal prosecution of Abacus Federal Savings, a small family owned bank that would become the only bank prosecuted in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.

This documentary tells the story of Abacus Federal Savings, a small bank in New York that became the target of a fraud investigation following the major economic meltdown of 2008. The film was directed by Steve James, best known for his work on the film Hoop Dreams. This documentary earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

This is an incredible documentary that points out some major questions about the way the U.S. government handled the aftermath of the collapse of the banking industry. More specifically, the documentary focuses on the question of how Abacus was chosen to be prosecuted while bigger industries were bailed out or fined. The film highlights the origins of the bank and some of the clear failures within their own systems. This is balanced by a look at the failures of the prosecutors in managing their case and understanding the banking system. The film includes interviews with members of the Sung family, the owners of the bank. Additionally, there are interviews with jurors, attorneys for both sides, and other involved parties.

This film isn’t an attack on government, it’s a series a questions that need to be considered. The movie is edited nicely and has a great pace. The film also avoids playing the hidden ball trick that is sometimes used to mislead viewers. If you’re interested in the story of how the government approached their only attempt at prosecuting a bank after the mortgage crisis this is one to see. I would also suggest this to fans of the film The Big Short since it provides another perspective on those events. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: Not Rated

Running Time: 88 Minutes


  1. Thought it was a very interesting documentary, which also made clear what the role of this specific bank was in its community and how it really added to it as it was more than “just a bank”.

    Liked by 1 person

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