Friday, December 17, 2004

Paper Clips: Movie and Book

Now, for some substance:

I prepared this book review for The Metro Herald. It was meant to accompany a review of the new documentary film, Paper Clips, written by my colleague, Tim Hulsey. As the twin reviews have not yet appeared in the newspaper, I thought it might be appropriate to post my own review here:

Six Million Paper Clips: The Making of a Children’s Holocaust Memorial, by Peter W. Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand. Minneapolis: Kar-Ben Publishing, 64 pages; $17.95 hardcover, $7.95 paperback. Publication date: November 2004.

(Charlottesville) — When I arrived at the Virginia Film Festival on the last weekend of October, with an array of literally dozens of events and movie screenings available to me, one of the lowest priorities was to see Paper Clips.

Six Million Paper ClipsTo tell the truth, the description of the film in the festival program struck me as a bit sappy: “Premiering at the Virginia Film Festival ahead of its national release by Miramax, Paper Clips tells the inspiring story of a group of middle school children in Whitwell, Tennessee, who in 1998 embarked on a project to collect one paper clip for every soul lost in the Holocaust. This school project has since opened the mind of the students, their teachers, their families, and thousands of people around the world.”

My reluctance was set aside, however, after I heard an enthusiastic report about Paper Clips from my colleague, Tim Hulsey. Fortunately, a second screening was scheduled, which included remarks by producer Bob Johnson of Arlington and co-director Elliot Berlin. I am glad I took advantage of that opportunity to see Paper Clips: It is an excellent film, at once entertaining, instructive, and moving.

One seldom attends a film of any type, much less a documentary, in which members of the audience can be heard sobbing. Moreover, there are few documentaries that can truly be said to be meant for the whole family. Paper Clips can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone, from children of eight years old to their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Thus it was serendipitous that a book arrived at The Metro Herald offices just about a week ago, a companion volume to the movie, Paper Clips, with an intended readership of those ages 8 and up (or grade 3 and up), written by two German journalists who feature prominently in the film, Peter W. Schroeder and his wife, Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand.

Published just in time for Hanukkah and Christmas, this book will make a good holiday present from any parent who wants to teach a child not just about tolerance, but about how children themselves can achieve something of note by having a vision, applying themselves, and working hard.

Six Million Paper Clips, the book, tells basically the same story as Paper Clips, the movie, but it has some additional information and insights that the filmmakers, as they say, had to leave on the cutting-room floor. The book and the movie complement each other without being redundant and the book, in fact, would be useful for children who have seen the film but who have questions about what happened and how. It would be a good launching-pad for an extended discussion between parents and children of what transpired in the movie, and a reminder and reference on the bookshelf long after the film is just a memory.

To be sure, this is not a book that most adults would enjoy on their own. It is, after all, written at a third-grade level. It also has an irritating conceit of referring to the Schroeders (the authors) in the third person. None of this should matter, however, to a grade-school student.

I hope that Six Million Paper Clips lands on the shelves of school libraries throughout the country, and that it inspires many American students to embark on projects of their own, whether to study the Holocaust or other historical and current events, so that they can learn what it is like to make a difference in their communities and in their own lives.

1 comment:

Jack Lewin said...

I saw the documentary , read the book and visited Whitwell middle school in Tennessee.
I am a holocaust survivor from Auschwitz.
I was amazed at the enormity of the undertaking for such a small community.
Also , I would love to get in touch with the Shroeders.
My email address is