The latest Holocaust documentary from the USA to arrive on UK screens is Paper Clips. Since being released two years ago, it has played at Jewish film festivals around the world and picked up several awards along the way.
Rather than focusing on a specific aspect of the Holocaust, it tells instead of a project undertaken by a school in the tiny town of Whitwell, Tennessee – which has a population of less than 2000 people and no Jewish community at all.
It sounds like an unlikely place for a Holocaust memorial, but in 1998 the students set about trying to collect six million paper clips – one for every Jewish person who died in the concentration camps – as part of their studies on the Holocaust. In doing so, they received paper clips from all manner of sources, from celebrities including Tom Hanks, Tom (Happy Days) Bosley and former president Bill Clinton, through to the families of victims, whose stories are woven into the film.
While this is a fascinating story, focusing on what is undeniably an admirable venture, the film unfortunately doesn't do its subject matter justice. The novelty value of seeing these small town folks and their enthusiasm for this project quickly wears off, and while some of the stories from survivors and families of the victims are moving, the film all too often relies on sentimentality and schmaltz rather than genuine emotion. Ultimately, the whole thing feels flat and full – which, given the potential of having such an interesting tale to tell, is a real disappointment.
Paper Clips (Cert U) is out now.