After three sold-out screenings, wide critical acclaim, and finishing as runner-up in the Grolsch People's Choice Documentary Award, the team behind Abacus: Small Enough to Jail can look back proudly on their world premiere week at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.
The week began with heightened anticipation as Abacus - which tells the story of the Sung family's five-year battle for justice when their family-owned bank became only financial institution prosecuted in the wake of the 2008 economic crash - was picked by several critics as one not to miss at TIFF16, and Steve James' film did not disappoint the over 700 people inside the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema for the world premiere on Sunday, September 11. An emotional and extended standing ovation greeted the Sung family as they took the stage with director Steve James and producer Mark Mitten.
We've picked out several of the best critical, industry, and audience responses from the entire week at TIFF below, along with more photos and videos of the week.
Following the screening, the family and the filmmakers and partners from Kartemquin, Motto Pictures, Blue Ice Docs, ITVS, FRONTLINE, Cinetic Media, and Susan Norget Film Promotion all joined together for a memorable meal in Toronto's Chinatown.
We're looking forward to the next screenings of Abacus at New York Film Festival on October 6th & 7th, the Double Exposure Film Festival in Washington, D.C. on October 8th, and Chicago International Film Festival. The filmmakers and subjects will attend all screenings. Find out more at www.abacusmovie.com.
"There's still a lot of anger that this has happened. Why? What must we do to prevent this from happening again, not just to us, but other people in the community? The criminal justice system really needs reform. We're not the only ones who have been wrongfully accused of a crime." – Vera Sung, speaking on CBC "As It Happens".
"This is a story about honor, family, determination, community, and possibility. It is also a cautionary tale for those who are in positions of power to be so thoughtful when you make decisions that these decisions are not guided by self-empowerment and personal gain, because the consequences of these decisions can be catastrophic, and in this case, potentially detrimental to an entire, vibrant community." - Heather Sung, speaking after the TIFF world premiere.
--- Reactions to Abacus: Small Enough to Jail at TIFF ---
"Abacus is an exemplary piece of filmmaking." Tom Charity, Sight & Sound.
"A touchingly human subplot to the financial crash, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is both an affirmation and an indictment of the American Dream." - Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter.
"In telling the story of one family, he’s opened up a new understanding of the complexities of one immigrant community – and revealed how much further the American justice system needs to go in understanding its own people." – Michael Snydel, The Film Stage.
"This film is a poignant intersection of the kind of systemic injustice that is birthed from government officials in bed with financial institutions." – Derek Jacobs, Cinema Axis.
"James, in particular, has an amazing ability to capture entire communities by focusing on a few people within them… The Sungs are the most memorable people of #TIFF16" – Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com.
"What exactly are the societal functions of financial institutions in today’s world? As the rich get richer and minorities continue to suffer the untold consequences of race in a landscape strewn with injustices, ABACUS: Small Enough To Jail tragically and urgently recalls those famous lines uttered between Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson back in 1974: “The District Attorney gives his men advice like that?” - Jordan M. Smith, IonCinema.com.
— Thom Powers (@thompowers) September 11, 2016
— Dorota (@DorotaMischka) September 11, 2016
Steve James ABACUS is a compelling legal drama in doc form and a reminder of how the George Baileys pay for the sins of the Potters. #TIFF16
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) September 14, 2016
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL. Vital, impeccably-made doc w/ much to say about the immigrant experience and justice post-2008 crash. #TIFF16
— danielclarksonfisher (@danielcfisher) September 17, 2016
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL is *essential* #TIFF16 doc viewing. don't miss this David/Goliath story.
— Debbie (@debsterbread) September 14, 2016
Just saw ABACUS. Steve James is really a national treasure. #TIFF16
— Matt Dentler (@MattDentler) September 12, 2016
Steve James and the subjects of Abacus after the World Premiere. Another deeply human, empathetic film from James. pic.twitter.com/zGuX9rrMFG
— Brian Tallerico (@Brian_Tallerico) September 11, 2016
— RogerEbert.com (@ebertvoices) September 15, 2016
— Richard B. Pierre (@rpfilmdirector) September 12, 2016
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL is the greatest story you've never heard. Steve James is my favourite of today's documentary filmmakers #TIFF16
— Jerry (@JerAtTheMovies) September 12, 2016
Abacus: Come to watch the perversion of the U.S. legal system, stay for a most beautiful portrait of a Chinese-American family. #tiff16
— Stephen Saito (@mfrushmore) September 14, 2016
— Brian Belovarac (@styptical) September 13, 2016
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL is a priceless document of awful prosecutors crushing the weak. Also a great Chinatown portrait. #TIFF16
— Joe (@ratherbeintokyo) September 11, 2016
— Joshua Gorner (@gorner) September 11, 2016
Loved this! The Sungs are my new heroes! https://t.co/ykZHOC4zNY
— Linda Fong (@DocsLinda) September 18, 2016
With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on more than 50 years of history as Chicago’s documentary powerhouse.
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