Patiently told and lovingly made, “Paper Clips” overflows with emotion as it portrays rural Tennessee middle school students making a unique Holocaust memorial. Unlikely setting — in heavily Anglo/Christian burg of Whitwell, near both birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and site of the notorious Scopes trial — gives the story poignancy, as teachers and students come upon a symbolic project that instills understanding of distant and different cultures. Pic at times feels like a living example of Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” credo, but cuts across ideologies as a promising buy for educational tube nets and as a classroom teaching aid.
With Whitwell middle school principal Linda Hooper, vice-principal David Smith and teacher Sandra Roberts as driving forces, students learn about the Holocaust in a 1998 project on diversity and tolerance. Their research uncovers how Norwegians attached paper clips to their clothes to honor Nazi victims. Plan to gather up six million paper clips in honor of Jewish Holocaust victims elicits a string of unplanned events that turns a modest classroom effort into a phenomenon that gathers national and international attention.