After years of investigating, Frontline was able to release a documentary, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” on the small Chinatown bank that ended up being the only bank indicted following the 2008 mortgage crisis.
“We were surprised that this was actually the bank that had been chosen,” Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath says. “We found that inside this story there was really a miscarriage of justice inside it. We got inside the story investigatively and uncovered quite a bit.”
With director Steve James, the team was able to get perspectives from everyone involved, including the bank which was no easy task. Aronson-Rath says the documentary isn’t about telling the news, it’s about telling a story. It’s a story inside a story that deals with the mortgage crisis, she says.
“Trust is the most important thing,” Aronson-Rath says. “It’s very hard to get inside corporations. To be inside the story took a lot of patience, a lot of time. The producers and directors had to be in New York with the family time and time again before they even allowed them to film.”
The goal of the film was to uncover what it was like for a bank to be indicted, what the ramifications were and what it would mean for other banks.
This story is just one of many that has Aronson-Rath believing in the power of investigative journalism. She says she has had a greater appreciation for the field than ever before. It has to survive, she says, because “corruption doesn’t show its face.”
Frontline is currently working on a film about Harvey Weinstein and his numerous scandals. Before the show could say yes to the story, Aronson-Rath says the show has to be convinced that they are adding to the conversation and not just repeating the news.
Rather than focusing on Weinstein himself, the film will focus on those around him who protected him. It will give insight into why he was able to get away with what he was doing for as long as he did. Frontline went back to his early days in Buffalo, New York, to uncover how this happened.
You can watch “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” and other Frontline specials here.