Thursday, April 26, 2007

What is Paper Clips?

An inspiring production of The Johnson Group, in association with One Clip at a Time Films and Ergo Entertainment, "Paper Clips" tells the story of the students of Whitwell Middle School in rural Whitwell, Tennessee.

In 1998, the students embarked on a classroom project aimed at teaching about cultural diversity in a small community almost exclusively white and Christian. Their "Paper Clips" project sparked one of the most inspirational and profound lessons in tolerance, in the least likely of places.

Out of a desire to help students open their eyes to the diversity of the world beyond their insulated valley, the school's principal, Linda Hooper, created the "Paper Clips" project to help her students to grasp the enormity of human suffering during the Holocaust. The idea was to collect six million paper clips - one for each of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust - an idea that touched a chord among Holocaust survivors, their families and even world leaders and celebrities as word of the project spread.

Ultimately, the school project generated an international outpouring of support and encouragement that none of the students and teachers - nor the citizens of Whitwell - had ever envisioned.

What is ADL's involvement?

The Anti-Defamation League is deeply involved with "Paper Clips" and is committed to promoting the film's message. Early on in the production, One Clip at a Time Films brought the documentary to the attention of ADL, which immediately recognized and understood the value of this film as a wonderful educational tool. ADL has developed an educational curriculum to accompany a DVD version of the film that it will be making available to middle and high schools in spring 2005, once the commercial run of the film has ended.

ADL has held special screenings of "Paper Clips" around the country and is encouraging everyone to see this film.

The "Paper Clips" Story

The idea to collect paper clips was born when a student at Whitwell asked, "What is six million? I've never seen that before" - a reference to the six million European Jews who perished in the Nazi campaign of genocide during World War II. Hooper and her colleagues suggested that it might help the students to visualize the staggering number of Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust by finding an object to collect.

The students did some research, and discovered that citizens of Norway, where the paper clip was invented, wore paper clips on their lapels as a sign of patriotism and resistance against Nazi tyranny during the war years.

The film takes viewers from the initial stages of the project and follows it through to its fruition, as the project generates an outpouring of support from around the world as word spreads. When all was said and done, the students had amassed not only millions of paperclips, but thousands of letters from 19 countries and 49 states, as well as paper-clip contributions from the likes of Tom Hanks, Bill Cosby, Tom Bosley, George W. Bush, Steven Spielberg, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton and many German citizens.

The project extended over several years and, in 2001, Whitwell dedicated a unique Holocaust memorial railcar, filled with paper clips and dedicated in an emotional ceremony on the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

"Paper Clips" is rated "G" with a running time of 78 minutes.