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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25.45%
Just Average: 1.82%
Pretty Crappy: 12.73%
Sucks: 20%

3 reviews, 37 user ratings

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Paper Clips
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by EricDSnider

"A touching documentary, albeit a simple one."
4 stars

It was a middle school in tiny Whitwell, Tenn., that set out to collect 6 million paper clips to commemorate the 6 million Jews killed during the Nazi holocaust. The irony of such an act coming from the rural South is not lost on Whitwellians in "Paper Clips," the documentary about their project.

One school administrator admits his own father is quick with a racist remark, and he notes that Southerners are easily stereotyped and discriminated against, too. The school's principal, a tireless, indefatigable old woman named Linda Hooper, says Whitwell (population 1,600) has no Jews, no Catholics, and only a handful of blacks and Hispanics. The project is extraordinary anyway, but particularly considering it's being spearheaded by a school of white Protestant redneck children. (I use the term "redneck" affectionately, at least as far as you know.)

The paper clip project, which spanned the years 1998-2003, honors lives and changes the lives of the honorers. The film, directed by Elliot Berlin and Joe Fab, neither of whom has any other previous credits, is constructed simply, even amateurishly, but the power of what's being done comes through loud and clear. It is a case of the material being far better than the movie.

Through footage shot over the years of the project, and with some minor bits apparently re-enacted for the camera, we see the project spring to life in the 8th-grade language arts class. Student research discovered that the paper clip was invented in Norway (who knew?), and that during World War II, Norwegians would wear paper clips on their lapels as a silent protest against Hitler. And thus was the perfect item found to be collected in large numbers, to signify the lives lost in the concentration camps.

Letters are sent to news organizations and to famous people, asking them to contribute paper clips to help them reach their goal of 6 million. The going is slow at first, but encouraging. Celebrities contribute clips, and businesses send masses of them. But still, the pile has reached only 100,000 when the Washington Post and "NBC Nightly News" pick up the story -- and from there, it snowballs.

In a matter of months, the school has collected 24 million paper clips (the number would eventually grow to 29 million) and 25,000 pieces of mail from all over the globe. Some people send huge boxes of paper clips bought in bulk; others send just a few, to represent specific people lost in the Holocaust, with accompanying letters to tell their stories. Each successive year of 8th-grade language arts students pick up where the last class left off, collecting and cataloguing all the contributions.

The project takes on a life of its own after a while. A group of Holocaust survivors come to give first-hand accounts to the school and the town. A husband-and-wife journalist team from Germany become frequent guests, eventually setting out to find a German railroad car to serve as permanent repository for the paper clips and to double as a memorial and museum.

There is some scripted narration in the film, voiced by the participants and sounding wholly unnatural, that detracts from the movie's otherwise earnest, trustworthy nature. But if the technique is sometimes regrettable, the basic story is unassailably good. It's hard not to be moved by the survivors' stories, by the students' reactions, by the clear way that everyone's lives are changed for the better by the paper clip project.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=9045&reviewer=247
originally posted: 05/11/05 19:49:09
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2004 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/05/12 Ms V Hokey, over-wrought - I felt dirty for having watched it! 1 stars
8/21/11 brian It's not a work of art, people. It's much better than that. 5 stars
3/26/11 Barry It's not "Schindler's List" David, but it wasn't meant to be. A must see! 5 stars
1/06/11 reuven stafford Cornilius is a bit harsh and judgemental here. Not perfect; but well worth watching! 4 stars
1/29/08 Tm Hart Where is mention of US complicity in the holocaust? 1 stars
1/14/08 Bob G The goodintentions overrode the film's faults 4 stars
4/04/07 Emily I loved this video.Ithought it was so inspiring. 5 stars
11/16/06 Steve Levine Cornelius seems like an elitist on Mt. Olympus. It's a moving, special film. Don't miss it! 5 stars
11/07/06 Peter This was a great film. David Cornelius completely misses the point. 5 stars
9/28/06 Joel David Cornelius may be the Idiot who doesn't know what he is doing, 4 stars
8/29/06 Tom Wheeler Selfadmittedly-ordinary folk make Holocaust-memory part of their town:not funny OR cheap. 4 stars
7/15/06 William Goss Terrific project, terrible movie. Admirable but shamelessly overwrought and contrived. 1 stars
5/09/06 Destravya God, this movie SUCKED. 1 stars
12/15/05 Gerry You know nothing of the South 5 stars
12/15/05 Binks Idiot. You probably doubt the existance of the Holocaust 5 stars
12/12/05 Mark A riveting, moving documentary. EFilm critic is in league with Hitler to have laughed at it 5 stars
12/04/05 Saul L. Smithson Out Standing Film. I am a holocaust serviver from 1941-1942. 5 stars
11/19/05 michael with no disrespect to ANNE FRANK, shouldn't these kids be learning about Rosa Parks? 3 stars
11/17/05 dale a Awesome -- everyone should see it. 5 stars
11/14/05 Irwin Grossman Lighten up - I thought it was pretty good... 4 stars
11/14/05 Tammy WIth all due respect, Mr. Cornelius, you are full of shit. 5 stars
11/10/05 naim bin samad x sedap punye buku 1 stars
10/01/05 Lee Edwards Every student should see this movie. 5 stars
6/03/05 AW This documentary was incredibly movie and tastefully done. 5 stars
5/27/05 Darius Shostakovich A very deep, moving movie. Everyone can get something from it. 5 stars
5/17/05 Eleanor Karp Extremely worth while. 4 stars for enlightening the people of Whitwell, TN to the Holocaus 4 stars
5/08/05 Snickerdoodle A really touching story 5 stars
4/24/05 GM interesting and worthwhile subject, amateurish and pointless film 2 stars
1/14/05 HL Being Jewish, I'm Touched That People React So Responsibly to the Nazi Horrors..Great Movie 5 stars
11/24/04 Jonathan Matthews a very moving film that highlights what's best about America. 4 stars
10/15/04 Tonya Bracken I live in Whitwell, Tennessee and must say the project has really touched me! 5 stars
7/14/04 Richard L.Lakin opens hearts and minds,confronts the viewer with one's own stereotypes and prejudices 5 stars
7/02/04 Robert Shay More than a film, it is a life experience. 5 stars
6/29/04 Marsha The best story of Tolerance I've ever seen 5 stars
5/03/04 SBL Very interesting - great movie 5 stars
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  08-Sep-2004 (G)
  DVD: 07-Mar-2006



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