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The ugly, non-glamorous, exploitative side of youth modeling, unfortunately rather poorly edited
For a while I've had this impression with me that youth modeling, especially the cast of (almost always) girls who are barely out of childhood (mentally and physically), invokes close resemblance to pedophilia. This documentary confirms that impression, following a young teenager girl (Nadya Vall) from a rural village in Russia to a trial at the very bottom feeder market of Japan commercial modeling.
It is the antithesis of Top Model or other glamorous portrayal of girls striving to conquer it all. Much on the contrary, Girl Model displays, in a crude form, how young girls are de-humanized, reduced literally to pieces of meat with a very short expiration date, and shuffled across continents and housed (or should I say warehoused) in tight confines while being, all the way, to navigate the unknowns of a country whose language they don't speak, a business they clearly have no idea how it works (which leave them vulnerable), while clearly bearing the insurmountable expectations that their whole families put on them as an escape from a poor life. It is an amount of pressure no 13-year old teenager should ever have to deal it so young in life.
The documentary is interesting, as well, in the sense it shows the overall insensitive nature of all people working with these young teens. They rationalize their work in different ways, and they probably worked with hundreds of girls before, so they become just oblivious to the obvious distress, anxiety and fear they have.
Ashley Arbaugh, a former model-turned-scout, co-star the documentary. She has been clearly affected by her years on the fashion industry, and is very conflicted about it - on one's hand grateful it helped achieve some financial security, independence and stability; on the other hand very ambivalent to the shallowness of the fashion world and the utter commoditization of models as they are reduced to their bodies and how they fit the aesthetics tastes of the moment. She can relate to the difficult moments of her own career as she signs two young Russian girls for a trail on the industry in Japan.
All of that notwithstanding, there are some major flaws with the documentary. Editing is bad, really bad. Even as the stories are compelling, they were merged into a documentary in a way that gives the impression of an unfinished job. I know this is a low-budget production, but this is not about money, but a rough editing job that compromises the viewer experience greatly. P.O.V. shooting might work great, but it does require good editing afterward.
They also tried to use the progression of an Ashley's medical issue as a hang to build her own insertion in the documentary, but it clearly didn't work, at least in the form presented.
Finally, I think it was a huge mistake not to let some of the people who are featured in the documentary to speak freely a bit, even if in the form of 'confessionals'. It would have greatly expanded the viewer's insight on the brutal work of C-level youth modeling.
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