Director Justin Lin has established himself as one of the most successful Asian filmmakers in Hollywood thanks to his work on four of the eight Fast and Furious movies, as well as 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. The eight films he has directed has amassed a total of $2.1 billion worldwide, so some may have forgotten that he came from an indie background, and he’s helped a few other Asian filmmakers get going.
That’s why it might not be too surprising that Lin has decided to develop a dramatic feature based on Steve James’ 2016 doc ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL. The original film follows the Sung Family, a group of Chinese immigrants whose small family bank in Chinatown, New York was hit quite hard by the 2008 mortgage crisis when they were faced with criminal charges when the bottom fell out of the market. They were prosecuted for mortgage fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney while many larger banks that were equally culpable were ignored. A staple of the Chinese community in New York, the Sungs spent five years fighting this legal battle.
The original documentary by Hoop Dreams and Roger Ebert: Life Itself director Steve James premiered at the 2016 Toronto and New York Film Festivals before running the festival circuit and being released by PBS Distribution this past summer. Oddly, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail will also air on Frontline tomorrow.
Lin will develop and produce the film via his Perfect Storm Entertainment, who optioned the doc as well as the Sung Family’s life story. Perfect Storm’s Mary Lee, Ernesto Foronda and Elizabeth Urwin will produce with Lin, along with Abacus producer Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman co-producing. James himself is an exec. producer.
Award-winning playwright and House of Cars writer Kenneth Lin will adapt the Sungs’ story.
This is somewhat of a return to Lin’s roots, having begun his career with the Sundance indie Better Luck Tomorrow before being hired on Disney’s Annapolis then moving over to the Fast & Furious franchise with the third film, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Lin would stay on board for the fourth film, simply called Fast and Furious, which would reunite Vin Diesel with the late Paul Walker. That movie’s success would lead to Lin directing the next two movies before shifting over to 2016’s Star Trek Beyond.
Deadline initially reported on this story.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor