Abacus: Small Enough To Jail Nominated for 2018 Academy Award

Posted on January 23, 2018

For the second consecutive year, an ITVS-funded film will contend for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards.

Oscarnomination cover cover851x315 caps

This morning we were so proud to learn Abacus: Small Enough to Jail was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 90th Oscars, which will be presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on March 4th. 

Abacus, directed by the legendary Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters), emerged from a competitive shortlist that included two other ITVS projects, Unrest (Jennifer Brea) and EX LIBRIS The New York Public Library (Frederick Wiseman), for a chance at one of cinema's greatest honors. 

“We are thrilled that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has honored the ITVS-funded documentary Abacus: Small Enough to Jail with a nomination for Best Documentary, Feature Film,” said Sally Jo Fifer, President & CEO, ITVS. “To have the work of veteran filmmaker Steve James recognized by his peers is deeply satisfying. His story of a New York Chinese American family fighting to continue to serve an immigrant community is moving and insightful.”

Jim Sommers, Sr. Vice President of Content, ITVS  said "Abacus is a great example of how independent filmmakers are able to surface stories that help audiences understand and connect with complex issues.The story of the Sung banking family was underreported by the mainstream press. By building trust and following the story over time, Steve and his team created a masterful documentary that I hope everyone has a chance to see."

The film joins the ranks of over a dozen pathbreaking ITVS films to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature throughout the years, including I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck, 2017), The Invisible War (Kirby Dick, 2013), and My Country, My Country (Laura Poitras, 2007).

"Awards are always a wonderful honor, for the filmmakers especially who work so incredibly hard to bring these stories to life, and for the organizations and dedicated staff that nurture them", said Tamara Gould, Head of International Co-productions and Strategic Partnerships, ITVS. "Hopefully the nomination creates more visibility for the wide range of films ITVS supports and brings larger audiences to the incredible work made by our filmmaking community." 

Pictured: Vera Sung, Jill Sung, and Thomas Sung in Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Abacus tells the story of Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a small community bank in Chinatown, New York City, founded by Thomas Sung in 1985 to help his fellow Chinese immigrants gain a financial foothold on their way to citizenship. But in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, Abacus became the only bank to face criminal indictments. With exclusive access to the Sung family, the film is both a character-driven narrative and a deep inquiry into who receives justice in America and at what cost.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail made its television premiere September 12, 2017 on FRONTLINE.

From our blog

  1. Diverse Stories From The Field

    August 30, 2018

    Starting a new project can be daunting for even the most veteran of filmmakers. From research and development to acquiring archival footage, where does one begin? The answers may lie in ITVS’s Diversity Development Fund, which provides you seed funding for all of the above and more.Hear from our filmmakers on how the Diversity Development Fund was

  2. Filmmaker, Festival Director, and Academic Gita Saedi Kiely Joins the ITVS Board of Directors

    August 1, 2018

    Elected in July, Gita Saedi Kiely has joined the ITVS Board of Directors. She is an accomplished leader who brings to the Board extensive experience in the documentary world.From 2012 to 2016, Saedi Kiely served as the Executive and Festival Director at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, in Missoula, MT, the premier non-fiction film destination in the

  3. Approaches from Insiders and Outsiders

    July 11, 2018

    Illuminating the human condition: it’s a theme that pervades some of the most effective documentaries. Getting there has multiple paths and as a filmmaker, you have baggage you bring. For The Judge, filmmaker Erika Cohn was a complete outsider in her story and had to build trust with strangers. Bing Liu, on the other hand, mined his own community