Paper Clips is an inspiring 2004 documentary about a consciousness-raising project that blossomed into something beautiful at a rural Tennessee school. When the principal of Whitwell Middle School sought a program that would teach diversity to a predominantly white, Protestant student body, the notion of focusing on the Holocaust–specifically Hitler’s extermination of six million Jews–seemed like an obvious way to go. But understanding what “six million” looks like became a challenge. Thus was born the idea of collecting that number of paper clips at Whitwell as a visual reference.
But then it turned out paper clips actually have, in historical terms, symbolic value where the Holocaust is concerned. In this moving film, one sees Whitwell students dig into research on Germany’s genocidal campaign, solicit clips from a variety of leaders and celebrities, and make a name for themselves on the national news. In time, the world comes to Whitwell’s doorstep, via unsolicited donations of clips from people around the world, and in a tearful meeting of students and Holocaust survivors. The dimensions of the project, the lessons about prejudice and intolerance, are stunning to watch grow beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. This is a great film.