Chinatown – “one of the lone neighborhoods in Manhattan to preserve its heritage and verve,” we noted earlier this year – takes center stage in two new documentaries.
In Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, now showing at IFC, director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself) looks at the case of Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a tiny, family-owned Chinatown bank which gained notoriety as the only bank to be prosecuted after the 2008 financial crisis.The documentary’s provocative thesis: Abacus, far from being a den of sketchy financial dealing, was actually a model banking operation; prosecutors, ignoring far greater malfeasance on Wall Street, chose Abacus – the 2,531st largest bank in the U.S., according to the film – because it was an easy target to make an example of. The new doc follows the Sung family, the bank’s owners, as they fight to clear their name.
Another new documentary – The Lost Arcade (dir. Kurt Vincent, writ./prod. Irene Chin) – also takes Chinatown as its muse. The Lost Arcade is an homage to the much-loved Chinatown Fair, widely considered the last authentic video arcade in New York.
A gathering place for cult video gamers, retro geeks, and misfits and outcasts of all kinds, the arcade closed to great dismay in 2011. It has since re-opened under new management, but buffs have been disappointed by the new iteration, which is scrubbed clean of the grit beloved by its cult following. (The Verge described the new version as a “mom’n’pop Dave & Busters.”)
Featuring an “original analog synth pop soundtrack,” The Lost Arcade is available as of this week on Amazon, iTunes, and other video-on-demand services. We covered its screening premier last August at the Metrograph in detail.