Abacus: Small Enough To Jail

When America shit itself economically, back in 2008, I didn’t know a whole lot about money. I knew I didn’t have a lot of it, and I wanted more. Ten years ago me and current me are very similar in that regard.

I knew that the banks were bailed out, that people were angry about this, that people occupied Wall Street, and eventually I got to see The Big Short. The Big Short was, at the time, my favorite film of that year, but since then it has been surpassed by Steve Jobs.

But I still only knew a little bit, just what some movies told me. I did learn enough from the movie to give me the buzz words and sort of explain what everyone was doing to cause it.

That leads us to Abacus: Small Enough To Jail.

Shit, all those boxes, he must be hiding something. A ton of tiny somethings.

Abacus was a small bank located in Chinatown in NYC. It had a staff of Chinese Americans, it served the local Chinese community and little else. They didn’t bar other people, but other people just generally didn’t come to them for banking needs.

The founder made it to be able to help members of his community, by providing them loans to start their businesses. These businesses would strengthen their community, increase everyone’s revenue, and bring the bank revenue as well. A win win win. However, at one point they found out that one of their employees had been lying on loan forms for mortgages in order to get loans out to people.

So the bank fired him, wiped their hands clean of the situation. It wasn’t until later, during the financial crisis, when anyone cared. That employee became an informant, and Abacus was brought to court. In fact, they were seemingly trying to blame the entire financial crisis on what a few of their employees were doing!

Needless to say, this documentary is about their trials, the trial itself, and how the government tried to make an example of these Chinese Americans, and perhaps why they were made the target.

Overall, it is a wonderful story, and one that folds out very nicely on the camera. It has some legal drama, some race drama, a lot to make a good, and possibly tragic story. I didn’t know how it would end, but it captivated me the whole way.

It did feel a bit “made for TV special” at times, so an increased in production value would have made it bigger. I have to assume when it was made it was not sure how big this story would blow up or what it would mean for America.

Definitely a story worthy of being told as a documentary and one that is worth a watch.

3 out of 4.

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