PAPER CLIPS (Elliot Berlin, Joe Fab). 82 minutes. Opens Friday (October 14). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NN Rating: NN
When instructors at a Tennessee middle school set out to teach kids about tolerance and hate using the Holocaust as an example, they face a daunting task. How do they imprint the death of 6 million people into the minds of white, Christian kids in a small, economically depressed rural community?
So the students begin writing letters to communities, celebrities and politicians requesting paper clips (a symbol of protest against Nazi oppression) -- one for every person who died. Then their Holocaust project hits the national news. Eleven million paper clips are displayed in one of the very railcars used to transport Jews to the concentration camps, a Holocaust memorial smack in the middle of Fundamentalism, USA.
A warm-hearted but cautious documentary, Paper Clips unrolls in a self-congratulatory fashion as students and teachers spill platitudes (and tears) by the barrel.
Amateurish footage, weepy close-ups and too carefully paced narratives all contribute to an emotionally manipulative experience, when simple facts and testimonials would have been powerful enough to stand alone.
The most compelling elements are primarily incidental: the range of emotions the students show, from overwrought to coolly clinical; the rampant jingoism spewing forth from the students and townspeople as they learn lessons of "tolerance."
This is more approriate as an educational vehicle for classroom viewing or as a teacher's guide on how to inspire apathetic students.