Steve James’ compelling film, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail was named Best Political Documentary at the second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards tonight at a gala event, hosted by Penn Jillette at BRIC in Brooklyn.
Jillette lead the celebrations for this year’s Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary honorees — The Cats of Istanbul (Kedi), Etty Ausch (One of Us), Al Gore (An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power), Laird Hamilton (Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton), Dolores Huerta (Dolores), Gigi Lazzarato (This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous), The Sung Family (Abacus: Small Enough to Jail).
One of the past year’s most critically acclaimed documentaries during its robust international film festival run and a national theatrical release, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the saga of the Sungs — a Chinese-American family who own and operate Abacus Federal Savings in New York’s Chinatown.
But in 2009, the Sung’s fired a loan officer after they discovered fraud. They reported the fraud to law enforcement, but soon found themselves and the bank under scrutiny. Two-and-a-half-years later, Abacus Federal Savings and two senior officers were accused of mortgage fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, becoming the only U.S. bank prosecuted after the 2008 financial crash and the first bank indicted in New York since 1991.
With riveting detail, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail follows how the indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves — and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community — over the course of a five-year legal battle.
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail examines the case against the bank, hearing from prosecutors, jurors, defense lawyers, and Mr. and Mrs. Sung and their four daughters — whom James filmed for more than a year as they fought to clear their names.
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a Mitten Media, Motto Pictures and Kartemquin Films Production for WGBH/FRONTLINE and Independent Television Service (ITVS). It is co-presented with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). The director is Steve James. The producers are Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman. The co-producers are Fenell Doremus and Nick Verbitsky. The executive producers are Gordon Quinn, Christopher Clements, Betsy Steinberg and Justine Nagan. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of ITVS is Sally Jo Fifer.
The second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards honor the finest achievement in documentary features and nonfiction television. The awards were determined by Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) members with expertise in the documentary field. The Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards was produced by Bob Bain Productions.
Click here for a full list of the winners.
The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) is a partner organization to the BFCA and includes TV, radio and Internet journalists who cover television on a regular basis. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com
FRONTLINE to Premiere ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL on September 12; Photos from Asia Society Screening
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.