This modestly produced documentary packs an emotional wallop unlike practically any other in recent memory. It takes place in the rural, blue-collar Tennessee community of Whitwell, where a middle-school class embarks upon a simple but ambitious project: In an attempt to gauge the magnitude of World War II’s Holocaust, students begin collecting paper clips, each of which represents a human life lost in the Nazis’ systematic slaughter of Jews.
They are to amass 6 million paper clips, imagining each tiny piece of metal to be a human being. Thanks to the tremendous skill of directors Elliot Berlin and Joe Fab, we see how the enormity of this task transforms not only the children but their parents; indeed, the entire community. As the paper clips pile up, the people begin to understand the comprehensiveness of that long-ago manifestation of intolerance and hatred.
There is, we must admit, a bit of theatricality and heavy-handedness to the film’s presentation. But its message is so clearly delineated and profound that its minor directorial excesses can easily be forgiven. Viewing this powerfully moving motion picture would benefit every family in the country…
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