Paper Clips is a 2004 American documentary movie about the Paper Clips Project, in which a middle school class attempts to collect 6 million paper clips to represent the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II. It was written and produced by Joe Fab, and directed by Fab and Elliot Berlin.
Paper Clips is set in the rural, blue-collar Tennessee town of Whitwell, where a middle-school class tries to quantify the scope of World War II’s Holocaust by collecting paper clips, each of which represents a human life lost to the Nazis’ killing of Jews. Three of the school’s eighth-grade teachers came up with the concept in 1998, and it was implemented in their classes. Over 25 million paperclips were collected by the pupils in the end.
The project’s documentary film was officially released in 2004. Rachel Pinchot was inspired to make this film after reading an article about the Whitwell Middle School in the Washington Post. She approached her husband, Ari Pinchot of The Johnson Group, with the idea for a film.
The Johnson Group dispatched a crew to Whitwell to capture crucial moments, such as the visit of six Holocaust survivors from New York, who shared their stories with the locals. Elliot Berlin made a seven-minute presentation out of the film.
This ‘demo’ helped convince the Miramax film business that this subject was worth a full-length feature, thanks to Ergo Entertainment and its partners Donny Epstein, Yeeshai Gross, and Elie Landau (who joined the production as executive producers).
It was regarded as “not just another tragedy film,” but rather “a project of hope and inspiration.” Interviews with kids, instructors, Holocaust survivors, and those who sent paper clips are featured in the film. It also depicts the railcar’s journey from Germany to Baltimore, then on to Whitwell. About 150 hours of footage had been acquired by the developers. In November of 2003, the film premiered in Whitwell for the first time.