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Paper Clips

An Afterschool Special on Tolerance

Every single student at Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, TN, a small town with only two traffic lights and a mere 100 miles away from where the Klu Klux Klan came into existence, is Christian. And only five are black. Which is why the principal wanted to create some kind of exercise that would teach her students about diversity. The assistant principal thought that teaching them about the Holocaust would do the trick.

What started off as a straightforward lesson in tolerance became a quest that changed a community. The efforts of the student body and the school administration is well documented in the moving film Paperclips. After a student remarked that she had no concept how to fathom six million people, the number of Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust, the class decided to embark in a project to collect paperclips from around the world to represent those who died.

Over several years, they ended up getting over 27 million paperclips from former Presidents, celebrities and journalists to German students, Holocaust survivors and the relatives of those who perished. A letter accompanied each clip, many of them detailed and heart-wrenching (yes, you will shed many a tear while watching this documentary -- bring tissues).

As the paperclips helped put into perspective the enormity of the genocide that occurred, a sheltered and homogenous community opened their eyes to the horrors of the world, and became more open-minded, more compassionate beings for it. Paperclips is best suited as an educational tool for children. Not that adults cannot enjoy it, but it may be too hokey with its feel good arc, heavy-handed narration and cheesy musak for them to truly enjoy.

Stars: 2 out of 5