ABACUS: Small Enough To Jail [2016]

This was a fascinating documentary about a small bank in New York’s Chinatown that was prosecuted for various fraudulent practices in 2011. It tried to link this malfeasance to the big crash of ’08, but that link seemed completely specious to me by the end of the film, though it had a certain thematic resonance. That aside, this film was very interesting, and very cleverly put together. It explained a raft of historical cultural factors in the way banking is handled in the chinese community, about banking structures, law enforcement, regulatory oversight, etc, without ever resorting to a voice-over or inserted exposition in the style of The Big Short. It built everything you needed to know out of interview excerpts as it unfolded the story. It then yoked all of this material to the courtroom-drama narrative structure to give it a satisfying shape. If you’re interested in banking, or good documentary filmmaking, add this to your list.

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