Girl Model is a disturbing documentary about teen fashion models
A documentary by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin. In English, Russian, and Japanese with English subtitles. Rated G. Opens Friday, August 10, at the Vancity Theatre
What if there were virtually no options open but to parade before strangers who judge your essential worth on the basis of the looks of your barely pubescent body?
Such things happen everywhere, but this disturbing documentary is mostly interested in the dynamic between naive young Russians and the people who use them. Our tour guide is someone who’s been there and is ambivalent about going back. And yet that’s just what Ashley Arbaugh, a former model and now talent scout, keeps doing when she heads to Novosibirsk, in darkest Siberia, and helps a scuzzy Russian promoter pick skinny kids to send abroad.
The latest blond nymph to have her head filled with dreams of fame and fortune is 13-year-old Nadya Vall, a willowy child-woman with a vacant, Amanda Seyfried stare and parents who quickly come to depend on her modelling potential. Vall is, ostensibly, the subject here, but once she gets stuck in a tiny Tokyo apartment, alongside a slightly more wised-up (read angry) model, you start suspecting that codirectors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin are really focusing on Arbaugh. The latter is also seen in her curiously sterile Connecticut mansion, where she obsesses about increasingly dark subjects.
This one-time girl model, who shows some related video footage from a decade earlier, is an insightful observer, but in some areas she can be quite blind, as in a visit to Vall and her roommate, obviously suffering from neglect, poverty, and homesickness in Japan. The girls laugh cruelly at their visitor’s cheerful cluelessness, but Arbaugh doesn’t want to see it. They are children and need adult care, but right now there’s money to be made. For someone.
Watch the trailer for Girl Model.