A Crooked Family History

Growing up in New Jersey in a family of crooks is one thing.
Getting out in one piece is a whole other story.

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Based on Helene Stapinski’s blockbuster memoir of the same title, the FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT documentary premiered on public television in 2017. The film relates Helene’s saga of growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, in a family nearly overrun with crooks, corrupt politicians, mobster wannabes and murderers. FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT takes the viewer inside Helene’s struggle to confront her family legacy and invent a new identity – without losing where she comes from and the people she loves.

thefilm_management“Like the book, the film is bluntly humorous about unspeakable things. Stapinski’s tone is perfect for her subject matter “ – Jay Lustig, The Record.

The documentary also brings to life 20th century Jersey City, the poster child for the era’s urban political corruption. Frank “I Am The Law” Hague is a key character, and the film shows how his iron rule during his 30-year reign as mayor turned Jersey City into a closed system where power, money and corruption at the top trickled down to street life at the bottom, affecting the everyday lives of working class families struggling to survive.

While some of the events in the film may seem like they come from The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire, this time the tales and the traumas are real, told by a working-class woman in her own voice. While our story takes place in Jersey City, the kind of political machine spearheaded by Frank Hague could have been found in many American cities, from Chicago to Baltimore to New York City.

“Fascinating, down-to-earth and lightened with enough humor and awareness that it’s absorbable. Well-balanced, informative and jaw-dropping at the right moments.” – from a fan

FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT began production in 2015 and was a truly independent film, financed, in part, by a Kickstarter campaign, as well as donations and grants from individuals and foundations. Check out the full credit list to see who made the film and who funded it.

Now, after its broadcast premiere on WNET in New York, look for the film at film festivals, community screenings and other public television stations. DVDs, digital downloads and institutional use is available.



A Crooked Family History

Click here to watch a 30-second spot.