‘ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL’ — Story Needed to be Told, But Not as Full-Length Feature
By Gregory Crofton
Kartemquin Films’ Steve James had an epochal impact on the world of documentaries when he made “HOOP DREAMS” in 1994. His latest feature film “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” will not leave the same mark.
This film is important because it tells a key and largely unknown story from 2008 financial crisis era — a family-owned bank in Chinatown is prosecuted for mortgage fraud when it should not have been. But its 90-minutes is about 60 minutes too long. It’s a courtroom drama without any real drama, and it includes more scenes of the same family eating at different Chinese restaurants than ANY film should.
What the documentary does well is provide access to the little-seen world of Chinatown, and it reveals that the relationship dynamics of a successful Chinese-American family seems to be the same as any other successful family.
“ABACUS” would have been a great fit for ABC’s 20/20. It had me squirming in my seat at the Nashville Film Festival pretty early on. For more information, you can visit the website for the film here.