The Sung family is at the center of this stirring film that reveals much about the American banking system, and way too much about American justice. The fiesty Sung sisters run the savings bank founded by their father, competently serving a neighborhood of immigrant Chinese. When they catch and report an employee’s fraudulent loans, they soon find themselves being investigated; it becomes apparent to many that their whole community is being scapegoated. Wait until you see their chain gang arrest!
In fact, their Abacus Federal Savings Bank was the only U.S. bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 financial crisis. The film asks why this tiny bank—2,651st largest in the country when it was brought to trial—had to fight to save its reputation, while the biggest bankers on Wall Street that brought us the 2008 meltdown never were charged with any wrongdoing.
The Sung family’s answering courage marks them as true American underdogs, our favorite kind of heroes. Directed by filmmaker icon Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself, The Interrupters), Abacus aired on Frontline in Sept. 2017, (where you can still stream it) and just was nominated for a “best documentary” Oscar for 2018.
James told a Frontline interviewer that the story has relevance today, “given that no justice was ever brought….Not only were the big banks not prosecuted coming out of that crisis, they were not regulated in a way to ensure that we’re not going to have more of these problems.” We agree with James and Oscar, and highly recommend it in the spirit of "Nevertheless, she persisted!"