The New York Times calls ABACUS – ” A classic underdog tale.” RogerEbert.com states that it is “An underdog story not unlike the one in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.” And The Playlist cites that “A bank becomes the underdog in Steve James’ ‘ABACUS.”‘
ABACUS chronicles the Chinese-American Sung family’s fight to clear their names after their small bank in New York City’s Chinatown became the only U.S. bank indicted for mortgage fraud after the 2008 financial crisis. The documentary follows how the bank’s indictment and subsequent trial forced the Sung family to defend themselves — and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community — over the course of a five-year legal battle.
In addition, the film highlights the strong Sung family daughters who, as attorneys, defended their family and their family’s bank against a bullying Manhattan District Attorney. In this era of strong badass women, the Sung women are just that.
One of 2017’s most critically-acclaimed documentaries, ABACUS was nominated for “Best Documentary” by both the National Board of Review and by The Chicago Film Critics Association, and awarded “Best Political Documentary” by the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards. Filmmaker James was also nominated as Best Director by the DGA for his work on the film.
For James, this is his first Oscar® nomination in category of Best Documentary Feature as director. Many felt his legendary documentary, HOOP DREAMS, was overlooked for an Oscar® in 1995. Although, that film was nominated for Best Editing – which was a feat unto itself, espeially given it is a documentary. In 2014, he was overlooked for LIFE, ITSELF – the docu feature about the life of film critic Roger Ebert. Now with ABACUS and this nomination, many have stated that this is his time. Julie Goldman and Mark Mitten are his co-Oscar® nominees.
ABACUS is available now streaming on Amazon and on https://www.pbs.org/frontline The film is also back in theaters starting this week in New York at the Museum of Moving Image and in Los Angeles, exclusively at the Laemmle Music Hall Beverly Hills. The Metrograph in New York is also hosting a Steve James retrospective on February 22. Check local listings for exact showtimes.