Paperclips (U)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner02/08/2006

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 83 mins

Interesting and frequently moving documentary but it misses several opportunities to widen the scope and make some important points.

What's it all about?
Set in small-town Whitwell, Tennessee (population 1600), Paperclips details a project on tolerance by the (all white, all Protestant) Whitwell Middle School, in which the students attempt to visualise the number of people lost in the Holocaust by collecting six million paperclips.

A pair of German journalists (the Schroeders) pick up the story and before long, the various students have amassed almost 30 million paperclips and the school decides to erect a permanent memorial to house 11 million of them, representing 6 million Jews and 5 million other people killed by the Nazis.

The Good
There are some undeniably moving scenes here, particularly when the school is visited by a group of Holocaust survivors. Unfortunately, the film-makers rather undercut the effect by cutting to reactions from the children instead of concentrating on the survivors' speeches.

Strangely, the film's most affecting sequence concerns one of the teachers behind the project, who tearfully admits that he has been bigoted and prejudiced in the past and vows not to pass that on to his own children, as his father had to him.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that it misses some valuable opportunities to widen the scope of the project and achieve something important. For example, the erection of the memorial takes place just days after September the 11th, 2001 and yet no attempt is made to link the theme of tolerance to the present day political situation.

Another problem is that the project spans several years, yet the film makers only include interviews with two children, which limits the effect a little.

Worth seeing?
In short, the project is undeniably worthwhile and creative but it's impossible to watch the film without seeing missed opportunities for something greater. Worth seeing but not the film it should have been.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 10:43

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