Steve James, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and More Attend “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” Screening at Metrograph Cinema; Among 15 Documentary Features to Advance in 2017 OSCAR® RACE

Co-producer Fenell Doremus, Producer Mark Mitten, Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung, Producer Julie Goldman, Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 90th Academy Awards®, including Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. One hundred seventy films were originally submitted in the category.

Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung and Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang
Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung and Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang

On Wednesday night, the screening of Abacus: Small Enough To Jail at Metrograph Cinema in New York was followed by a panel discussion moderated by award-winning documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, and featured director Steve James, producer Mark Mitten, and members of the Sung familiy including Vera Sung, Jill Sung and Chanterelle Sung.

From acclaimed director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters), Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only bank prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis. 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.

Award-winning filmmakers Roger Ross Williams and Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang
Award-winning filmmakers Roger Ross Williams and Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang

The Academy’s Documentary Branch determined the shortlist in a preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles.

Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 23, 2018.

The 90th Oscars® will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung and Heather Sung. Photo by Lia Chang
Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung and Heather Sung. Photo by Lia Chang
Co-producer Fenell Doremus, Producer Mark Mitten, Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung, Producer Julie Goldman, Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang
Co-producer Fenell Doremus, Producer Mark Mitten, Jill Sung, Vera Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Heather Sung, Producer Julie Goldman, Director Steve James. Photo by Lia Chang

The film recently earned the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Political Documentary at the 2017 Critics’ Choice Awards, as well as a nomination for the Cinema Eye Honors’ Audience Choice Prize. The Sung family – including Chanterelle Sung, Hwei Lin Sung, Jill Sung, Thomas Sung and Vera Sung – was nominated for Cinema Eye Honor’s non-competitive honor, The Unforgettables, which honors the year’s most notable and significant nonfiction film subjects. This year’s winners will be announced at the 2018 Honors Awards Ceremony on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. The ceremony will be hosted, for the third consecutive year, by Abacus director Steve James.

Abacus is directed by Steve James and produced by Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman; edited by John Farbrother and David E. Simpson; music by Joshua Abrams; cinematography by Tom Bergmann; co-produced by Fenell Doremus and Nick Verbitsky and executive produced by Gordon Quinn, Christopher Clements, Betsy Steinberg, Justine Nagan, Raney Aronson and Sally Jo Fifer. Abacus is a Mitten Media, Motto Pictures and Kartemquin Films production for WGBH/FRONTLINE and Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with Blue-Ice Film Fund.

Abacus is now available to stream and download on Amazon Video and iTunes.

Photo Flash: Steve James, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi And More Attend Abacus: Small Enough To Jail Screening At Metrograph

FRONTLINE to Premiere ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL on September 12; Photos from Asia Society Screening

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Vera Sung and Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Vera Sung and Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

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.

 

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ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL Named Best Political Documentary at Second Annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards Ceremony

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).

Thomas Sung, Hwei Lin Sung, Heather Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Vera Sung and Jill Sung. Photo by Lia Chang
Thomas Sung, Hwei Lin Sung, Heather Sung, Chanterelle Sung, Vera Sung and Jill Sung. Photo by Lia Chang

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.

Credits
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.

About BFCA/BTJA
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

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

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.

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