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Girl Model - Movie Review - 2012

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Girl Model - Movie Review - 2012

Still from 'Girl Model'

Cinema Delicatessen

Trafficking Young Girls To Be Models

The commonplace perception about modeling is that it is a glamorous career that pays extremely well and offers fabulous opportunities for travel to exotic destinations where you get to hang out with the world's most beautiful people in the world's best hotels, dining at the best restaurants and wearing fabulous clothing and accessories.

With all that in the offering, the job has allure, to say the least.

And, that's especially true for girls who've grown up under difficult circumstances and are looking for a way to work their way towards a better life. But, as we see in Girl Model, the a young model must follow to the professional runway isn't always as smooth as they imagined it might be, and it may actually lead young and naive aspirants to various degrees of personal crisis.

The Cast of Characters

In Girl Model, filmmakers Ashley Sabin and David Redmon follow 13-year old Nadya Vall, who willingly leaves her home and impoverished family in rural Siberia to seek fame and fortune in Tokyo, where her blond hair, blue eyes and baby doll looks are considered highly marketable assets by agents who book modeling gigs with Japanese photo editors who favor those qualities.

Nadya is recruited for the venture by Ashley Arbaugh, a American who worked as a model in Japan and now is an agent representing other models who do so. Arbaugh knows how difficult getting assignments can be, and has experienced feelings of rejection and inadequacy that hit when you don't get the job.

Arbaugh's ambivalent feelings about her role as recruiter and wranger come to the fore as she observes Nadya struggling with the go-see calls, where she is paraded in front of editors who inspect her as though she were meat, and wind up picking someone else -- another blond, blue-eyed tween whose look they just happen, for no particular reason, prefer. The traumatized Nadya is sinking deeply into despair. Not only does she experience continual assaults to her self esteem, she's also extremely homesick and doesn't have enough money to eat properly or take care of her other personal needs. Her experiences are harrowing. Arbaugh is sympathetic, but a job's a job, and she needs hers and is content that she does it well.

More Is Lost Than is Gained

Unfortunately, Nadya doesn't book enough shoots to continue her contract. She winds up going home, happy to be reunited with her loved ones, but also aware that she's failed at the job that was to be her salvation and that of her family. Not only that, the modeling venture will wind up having cost her money that she cannot afford to lose. The job has, in fact, set her back.

Many Young Girls

Nadya is not alone. There are hundreds of girls who set out on this journey each year, beginning with modeling tryouts in their home towns or nearby cities. They do their best to attract attention, first being offered a contract and then booking jobs. The majority never make it to the contract signing, and perhaps they're lucky. Of the few who do get contracts, even fewer succeed in establishing careers. Most are crushed by rejection, then get over it and go on to find other -- less exciting, no doubt -- jobs. Nadya, as we learn at the end of the film, actually decided to give it another try. She's older, wiser and has a bit more experience handling the pressures of life, and perhaps will be a winner at the conclusion of round two.

A Cautionary Tale

The film's cast includes other young models, too. All of them seem to be being looked after by a responsible adult -- by Arbaugh or one of her colleagues. This isn't a film that shows any of them sliding on the slippery slope to dissolute behavior, either due to lack of supervision or through intentional manipulation. But, there is a sort of cautionary undertone that they might be lead astray.

They are, after all, very young and quite naive. And they are needy, emotionally and materially. And nobody has indicated to them that the journey they've signed up for can be devastating. They are simply not prepared for it, and that is a kind of horrific exploitation.

It would be interesting to know how many tween model wannabes wind up being trafficked in the way indicated by the smarmy definition of the word. Other documentaries focus on the out and out trafficking of tweenage girls, but you wonder whether there might be, in some cases, another dimension to the modeling gig, as well. And, if so, how prevalent might it be?

Without going there, Girl Model presents an emotionally charged look at the realities of life as a young model, and the hardships that put girls to work at such a young age. It doesn't delve into the efficacy of an industry that puts tweenage girls through the paces and often rewards them with absolutely nothing, but it does engage considerable compassion for Nadya, and it leads you to consider the issues.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Girl Model
  • Director: David Redmon and Ashley Sabin
  • Release Date: September 5, 2012
  • Running Time: 78 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Location Countries: Russia and Japan
  • Language: English, Russian and Japanese with English subtitles
  • Distribution Company: Cinema Delicatessen
  • Official Website

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