Documentaries are becoming more and more of an art form each year. Like him or hate him, Michael Moore has put the finishing touches on a road paved by Errol Morris and D.A. Pennebaker, bringing the reality of life to cinemas across the nation. Even with the growth of documentaries, "Paper Clips" needs a little help.
Without the political slant of "Fahrenheit 9/11" or the benefits of instant recognition via pop culture icon Ronald McDonald in "Super Size Me", this heartwarming tale needs word of mouth to get its story out. In Tennessee, the Whitwell Middle School 8th grade class took a lesson about the Holocaust and personalized it. What began as a visual on the six million Jews killed by Nazis in World War II, the students began collecting a paper clip for each victim. An idea that seemed fairly simple started to gain a pulse, evolving the project from an assignment to a miracle. The struggles and rewards over the course of collecting six million paper clips are not to be missed, giving us a look at some of the positives our world has peppered throughout.
From a parent's perspective, this may be the best way to introduce a young mind to the horrors of the Holocaust. "Paper Clips" focuses more on the students and their project rather than the harsh details of their subject. The documentary will aid in stimulating conversation on a variety of levels, allowing viewers to dictate where the subject goes. Some may focus on the lessons learned by the town of Whitwell, while others may dig deeper into the historical side of the documentary. "Paper Clips" should be shown in schools across America, if only to showcase the depths of passion within learning. It is a great way to begin a lesson about the Holocaust and may provide enough inspiration for students to really dig into the material and learn more about the past. Simply spreading the message on an annual basis may reap rewards of its own.
Possibly overlooked are the positive results produced from inspired students. When given a subject as dark as the Holocaust, many choose to spend little time on the harsh reality that is cast upon our world's history. What could have easily been a quick lesson plan on Hitler's wrongdoings within World War II escalated into more than the city could hope for. One simple question about what six million really looks like evolved a history lesson into a life lesson. The students learned about stereotypes, and got first hand knowledge from people who lived during the Holocaust. What started as a lesson for students ended up touching the entire town. The events that took place over sixty years ago were explained, and then learned on a more personalized level. The Holocaust Project became a staple within the community. The city of Whitwell, Tennessee now has a memorial that not only serves as a memorial for victims of the Holocaust, but a memorial of how inspired students can impact the world.
"Paper Clips" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The look is typical of a documentary with some visual inconsistencies, but there are no flaws that hinder the viewing experience. Overall, the colors are nice and there is good lighting throughout the feature. Archival footage is generally where the quality of the picture goes down considerably, but most of the footage that made the final product was filmed at the time of the documentary, so there aren't a lot of poorly shot scenes. "Paper Clips" lacks the sharp, detailed picture that most features boast on DVD, but for a documentary this unpolished look is par for the coarse.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is very average. This isn't a negative; there simply isn't anything special on the audio side of this DVD. Dialogue is at a decent level and comes across very clear. There are a number of set shots that minimize the audio dropouts that plague a lot of documentaries when they shoot on the fly. The music is at a decent level, never overpowering what is going on within the shoot.
There are no special features on this DVD.
While I love the message of the movie, the DVD falls a little flat. The 84-minute runtime scratches the surface of the knowledge the students from Whitwell Middle School, leaving viewers inspired, but wanting more. There are no extra features on this DVD. As with most documentaries, there has to be an abundance of footage that didn't make it into the movie. Personally, I would have wanted to hear some of the stories from the Holocaust survivors. I would love to think some of the stories and insight was being held back for a special edition DVD, but with a small documentary like "Paper Clips", I don't see this happening. The audio and video presentations are nice, and the positive message is moving. I guess it is our responsibility to seek out the knowledge and educate others about how a small idea can produce the grandest results.
"Paper Clips" is recommended for all ages looking for a positive slice of life in a crazy world.