FIVE FINGER DISCOUNT: a crooked family history

FIVE FINGER DISCOUNT: a crooked family history

    Price: $250.00

    Code: 2552

    Directed by Steven Fischler
    2017, 55 minutes
    Purchase: $250 | Classroom rental $125

    FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT is based on Helene Stapinski’s best selling memoir “Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History.” The book and the film tell the story of Helene’s childhood, of her growing up working-class in Jersey City, New Jersey – in a family nearly overrun with crooks, petty criminals, corrupt politicians, mobster wannabes and murderers – and how she became a journalist and a best-selling author. But unlike the colorful characters we’ve seen in other New Jersey tales, ours are real.

    As background to Helene’s story, the documentary vividly paints the political and social history of Jersey City itself, long considered the poster child for twentieth century urban corruption. Notorious Mayor Frank “I Am The Law” Hague is a key character: during his 30-year reign from 1917 to 1947, Hague institutionalized urban America’s corrupt political mores and ruled Jersey City with an iron hand.

    Helene’s stories of her relatives’ shady, often criminal dealings show us how Hague’s long rule turned Jersey City into a system unto itself, one whose illegal ethos trickled down from the top of the political grid to everyday family life at the bottom. While it’s certainly a uniquely Jersey City story, it’s also one that took place in cities throughout the country, wherever immigrant groups sought political power against an established elite.

    Helene Stapinski is one of our very few prominent working-class women writers. The stories and lives of blue-collar women, in places like Jersey City, often do not get told. We believe it’s important to bring Helene’s story and voice to the screen.

    Subjects & Collections


    "Five-Finger Discount is a sweet documentary of one writer's engagement with her less-than-glorious family history. Helene Stapinski's spunk, frankness, and humor go a long way toward showing how the stuff that families tend to conceal can make for the best kind of literary and cinematic capital."
    — Luc Sante, Critic and Author: "Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York."