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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 Peter Sobczynski

"Like a straight version of one of those Christopher Guest films"
2 stars

Imagine a documentary in which a small Southern town congratulated itself for finally allowing women the right to vote a half-century after it was legalized and devising an elaborate craft project to commemorate it? Imagine that instead of explaining why it took them so long to get with the program, the film spent its entire running time trying to show just how noble and enlightened these people truly were for making this decision? I dare say that most right-minded viewers would either be appalled at the idea of such a film or somehow convince themselves that it was actually a straight-faced parody in the mold of the films that Christopher Guest cranks out every few years. And yet, the new film “Paper Clips” does essentially the same thing, only using the Holocaust as its subject and the result is one of the most off-putting documentaries I can remember seeing; instead of putting any real thought into its subject, the film gracelessly plods along with all of the journalistic depth of one of those “human interest” stories that get tacked on to the end of the news on an especially slow day.

The film takes place in the small town of Whitwell, TN, a self-described “depressed” community that is situated near the locations of both the Scopes Monkey Trial and the birthplace of the KKK. In 1998, the town’s middle school decided that it was finally time to begin teaching students about the Holocaust, even though there aren’t any Jewish people in town. To symbolize the enormity of the human losses, the students decide to collect 6 million paper clips to represent those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. Once word of their plan gets out, they become swamped with clips sent to them from around the world.. Over the next couple of years, their program is such a success that they collect over 24 million clips and install them in an old railroad car as a permanent exhibit in a ceremony that trots in Holocaust survivors to give their blessing.

Throughout the film, the townspeople take great pains to point out to us that they aren’t just stereotypical rednecks; no, they are deep and soulful people and this exhibit is a testament to their profound humanity. I have no doubts regarding the sincere motives behind this project, but they are so busy patting themselves on the back that they never get around to discussing the unacknowledged subject that, for me, was always bubbling just beneath surface. Simply put, why did they feel the need to wait 53 years after the end of World War II to begin teaching the subject of the Holocaust in their schools? Was the data up until then just too fuzzy and inconclusive? A genuinely thoughtful documentary would have explored that potentially uncomfortable subject and by completely ignoring it, directors Elliot Berman and Joe Fab only call more and more attention to it.

In fact, the resolutely chipper approach that the film takes to such an overwhelmingly dramatic subject is so odd that there were times when I became convinced that the movie had to be some kind of put-on. There was one moment where some Germans come to town and many of the students are surprised to see them because, they claim, they never knew what an actual German looked like. Another strange part comes when the project gets the kind of boost that organizers (not to mention documentarians) yearn for; a genuine celebrity endorsement. The celebrity on display here? Uh, TV’s Tom Bosley, who only parts with one measly clip.

“Paper Clips” was no doubt made with the best of intentions and I suspect that those who actually go to see it will respond more to those intentions that to its cinematic and journalistic shortcomings. Believe me, if I thought I could get away with just doing that in a review, I would much prefer doing that than being known as the guy who bashed the film about kids learning about the Holocaust. However, a movie needs more to succeed than just good intentions; after all, no one (with the possible exception of Carrot Top) has ever set out to make a bad movie. Other than those intentions (which are themselves somewhat questionable), there is simply no reason to watch “Paper Clips.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=9045&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/25/05 05:53:22
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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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