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Former model and now jaded scout (read: human trafficker), Ashley
Arbaugh, reveals the ugly truth that there is no glamour in modeling.
With incredibly questionable morals on display from just about everyone, from the 13 year old Siberian child's mother pushing her daughter into modelling (read: slavery), through to the curious agency owner who knows that there is no money to be made on these girls who stay in Japan for three weeks only to return home with $2k worth of debt for the family (along with a nice mentally scarred teenager).
Ashley, the soulless globetrotting star of this film, is self-indulgent beyond belief in her self- pity, which, if you try really hard to push past her shocking, confronting can-I-slap-her exterior, you might just see a a raw and damaged woman. A template that you can easily imagine these 13 year old girls are now going to grow into themselves.
Yet another awesome example of documentary kicking fiction's butt in the creation of monstrous characters, and nothing says this better than the agent (read: child catcher) that enthusiastically talks about bringing happiness and wealth to all of the girls and their families, and how this mantra of helping others must exist because he had been a bad man in a previous life. Classic.
Watch out for one of cinema's most uncomfortable scenes when Ashley drops in to say hello to the two models in their rather compact apartment (or shall we say 'cell').
[...]The film is obviously dark and upsetting, but it left me with so
many unanswered questions. Perhaps in our age of America's Next Top
Model, the directors expected a certain base understanding of the
modeling industry, but I could have used some more guidance. I would
have appreciated a narrator or on-screen captions saying things like
"This is a recruiter. It is the recruiter's job to
" or "Nadya is now
" Maybe I just have a way below average understanding
of modeling, but the whole time I kept asking myself very basic
questions that could have been easily explained, and would have made
for a much more educational film.
Additionally, the filmmakers failed to elaborate on certain themes that were mentioned in passing, often by Ashley (who was an utter enigma as a character, hovering between denial and insanity). Themes like prostitution and sex trafficking, and illegal underage models. These are issues that could use some unpacking. Ashley would say something like, "We all know that some girls turn to prostitution (though she never even says the word), but I don't have any first-hand evidence of that," and then she would move onto another topic. I think in cases like this, it is the filmmakers role to step in; if not to press Ashley further in the interview than at least to provide the audience with a statistic or something. However, the directors seemed determined to keep the narrative confined to the claustrophobic world of the characters that they were following, leaving the audience to scratch their heads and speculate. Additionally, with no additional information, the viewer is left with no idea about the scope of the problem. Are situations like this the exception or the rule? Are they limited to Japan, or to this one particular agency, or should we now assume that any photograph we see in a fashion magazine has a crying Russian child behind it? What can we do to prevent situations like this? We simply are never given any of the answers.
Girl Model was an engaging and disturbing documentary, though it left me wanting to know more. It showed us the characters and told us their story, but left out a lot of the context necessary to create a holistic understanding. I'll probably end up trying to do some more research about the topic to answer some of the questions that I had, but it would have been nice it the directors had done that work for me.
Read the full review here: http://mattreviewsstuff.com/2012/04/25/girl-model/
This is one disturbing documentary. I feel as shocked and repulsed as I
would had I just watched a documentary on child pornography, which
frankly, isn't too far removed from what I have just seen. I don't
write many reviews but sadness and anger have prompted me to start
Unlike other reviewers who feel the directors skimmed the surface and left too much out, I disagree: by remaining quiet and distant (although thankfully they apparently did step in when the child models were in obvious need of help, which was not being provided by anyone else) they perfectly capture the solitary confusion, neglect, and loneliness that the girls face. The lack of action, human interaction (other than with unfriendly agency/magazine people), and the tedium of the documentary all perfectly mirror the experience the girls themselves go through. If we (adult viewers) aren't completely clear as to who certain people are, or what exactly is going on, then we can safely assume that a 13 year old girl from Siberia, who speaks neither English nor Japanese, and has no parents to help, would not know either - and that's the point. These young, hopeful, innocent girls are plucked from their surroundings and dropped into the ruthless, heartless, abusive world of modeling with no support system in place, where (shockingly, to me) women as much as men treat them as insentient "things", products that they can push, prod and pick apart. To make it all the more morally repugnant, having endured being repeatedly reviewed/rejected/reviewed/rejected/reviewed/rejected, they are sent home, not with thousands of dollars in their bank accounts, but IN DEBT to the agencies that "represent" (pimp) them.
So who's to blame for all of this - does the fault lie with the parents for sending their children off, unescorted, into the blue? I don't think so- they have been promised a dream, a future, financial rewards, which in reality are unlikely to materialize, but should they be blamed for hoping for the best? Ashley (see below), in one of her scouting pitches, claims no model fails in Japan and they won't return in debt as they would if they are sent anywhere else, which is clearly - and she knows it! - a lie. The parents are oblivious to the truth of the situation into which their daughters are being sent, and I'd like to think the moms and dads give themselves enough of a hard time for falling for the lies, and believing in the dream that didn't (and rarely does) come true once it all does become clear upon their daughters' return.
The perpetrators of what, in my opinion, amounts to borderline child abuse are Ashley Arbaugh, the scout responsible for finding the pre-pubescent girls and Noah and "Messiah", the agency owners she passes them on to.
Ashley has obviously been psychologically damaged by her own time in the modeling industry (and possible dabble into other sideline activities - prostitution, perhaps? - which she alludes to by mentioning she had been a "bad girl"), a fact that is borne out physically in the form of a large cyst and fibroid she has to have surgically removed. She is clearly not healthy in the body, nor the head. She has a horrible lack of depth, acknowledging but then brushing aside the seedy side of the industry she feeds, even going so far as to refer to prostitution as "normal". Her morals have clearly collapsed in the face of an obvious selfish drive to make money. I found her perversely fascinating. Does she have any friends? Who would want to hang out with her? She mentions wanting a baby - but would anyone actually date her?... And cold-hearted it may sound but I truly hope she never actually has one, god forbid a daughter.
As for the men who run the agencies, I have two words: "pedophile pimps".
"Ugh" is how I feel having watched this documentary. What a sordid world and how callous human beings can be. Very sad.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hard to try and beat the earlier review of this by Backseat Director.
Just saw this at MIFF today and found it very absorbing. Whilst it is very sad watching the young women (girls) being exploited the saddest character by far is "scout" Ashley.
From her inability to leave an industry she clearly loathes, to her massive but ultimately empty mansion (complete with two plastic babies) to her revolting cyst. The scene when she "checks up" on the two young Russian models is a real highlight. Cannot believe how ignorant and cold Ashley is in this sequence. Her inability to communicate is astounding (Hey Ash, did it ever occur to you that the girl's are Russian and didn't have English skills?) and I cannot believe she couldn't fork out some of her fat payroll to hire an interpreter.
A must see documentary.
David Redmon and Ashley Sabin's Girl Model is a lot like Lee Hirsch's
directorial debut in the documentary world, Bully, which came out
earlier this year. Both films are well done and do a mostly efficient
job at drumming up awareness to their subject, but both leave things
undeveloped and occasionally have a pending "half-baked" feeling to
them. While I thoroughly enjoyed Bully, mainly for its message, its
tone, and its deep stories told by the victims with sincerity and
bravery, such topics as the reason why kids bullied others and
interviews with the actual bullies or their parents were mysteriously
We begin by meeting our main model, a thirteen year old Russian model named Nadya Vall. She is moderately tall, with pale skin, and a feeble body thanks to little food consumption. She has thinned herself down to amazingly slender shape only so she can be trafficked all across the United States, Siberia, and Japan to help her family through financial trouble. The picture opens with a beauty judge going through a lineup of girls, announcing their flaws to another woman as if they are public information. The dehumanization he brings to these women, as the looked of unadulterated failure rests in their eyes is hurtful to watch. The same man later tells us that three things you need to be a successful model are "grace, good communication skills, and manners." You'll also need a rhino's skin and a high level of self-esteem, but those perks come omitted from the modelling handbook I presume.
One modelling agency representative named Noah states that he loves the job of a model agent for the sole purpose that he feels he's giving these women a chance at greatness and an opportunity to grow as individuals. This is only one of the most likely hundreds of contradictions in the modelling world; you're told to be an individual, but to have your flaws nit-picked in public, as if there's no element of privacy at all, and to be told what to eat, what to weigh, and how to go about being liked in an industry dominated by ego, greed, and narcissism, it sounds like the gospel that preaches against human individuality.
The film features arguably one of the strangest, yet most soothing cinematographic elements in quite sometime. The entire film seems to encapsulate or mirror a dream sequence, with very glossy atmosphere, smoothly gray and faint images, and many, many scenes with very simple yet very divine direction.
However, this soft approach not only affects the film's look but the film's approach to the subject matter. In seventy eight minutes, Girl Model is a fine documentary, but it lacks examination on the larger scale issue at hand here and takes the passive, almost constructive criticism tactic on the modelling industry. It remains too safe, and has numerous times where anger and emotional weight could be applied, but cops out in favor of a more calm, controlled direction. Perhaps viewers would rather watch a calm, controlled look on the modelling industry, but I occasionally felt restless and a little unmoved when the film clearly could've invited social criticism into play, but unfortunately, took the safer, more emotionally sustained route.
Starring: Nadya Vall. Directed by: David Redmon and Ashley Sabin.
Fairly disturbing documentary about young (way young) models scouted
from their homes in Siberia and sent to Japan to model. -Apparently the
Japanese market likes young girls.
Our main subject here is 13, plucked from the Siberian countryside and dropped into the centre of Tokyo. The girls are basically owned by their agency, waiting around in tiny, crappy apartments to go on shoots, completely shut off due to the language barrier and a lack of cash. Ultimately they can be sent home if they gain any weight or "inches" as outlined in their contract. This creates a problem for some girls as they haven't gone through puberty yet.
This documentary was very sad because initially the girls and their families think they've won the lottery but in reality I saw it as just another form of human trafficking.
The scout who finds these girls is a former model and apparently hates the business but that doesn't stop her from finding and exploiting the girls and living in a fancy house in America. 03.13
This documentary is raw and without all the niceties of those with a
high budget, but it conveys its meaning in a direct and strong way. The
way it depicts the fragility and the weakness at the core of this
thirteen years old girl, and her friend, feels real. Their humane side
is way more beautiful then their looks and it makes you angry to see
how this world allows the practice of exploiting, not just poverty and
hopes, but also innocence.
Kids and teenagers especially, should be protected and guided toward real values until they are able to discern by themselves. We - as in, us adults - should work together toward a better awareness and see the things how they really are, rather then taking them as "someone" would lead us to believe. Let's go beyond looks and materialism to see what really matters. Only then we can help the younger generations.
Watch this documentary. Maybe it's worth it or maybe not - for me it surely was - but give it a go.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When most people think of models they think of glitz and glamour and
beautiful women. Girl Model flips that image on it's head and shows the
real ugly side of the modeling industry.
This documentary follows Nadia, a shy and sweet natured thirteen year old from rural Siberia. She wins a modeling contract and gets to go to Japan. She hopes her work as a model will support her family. She is "discovered" by American model scout Ashley. This documentary has no shortage of creeps and crazies but Ashley takes the cake. A former model herself, Ashley travels around Russia looking for the youngest and freshest faces to send to some creep in Japan that calls himself "Messiah". It's basically 1 step short of all out child trafficking. Ashley say's she feels bad about it but that's kind of hard to believe. She seems to enjoy living in her Connecticut mansion complete with creepy anatomically correct baby dolls, specialty made boxes for storing creepy fetish photos of teenage girl's feet and mounds of tape titled "Russian Teens" a little too much. As a young model she made creepy tapes of herself. I hope for her sake she was on drugs. Later on she gets fibroids and cysts and act's like she's pregnant. Umm OK.. Personally, I think Ashley should hold off on her next trip on the trans-siberian railway and instead check herself into the closest mental hospital stat. I'd feel bad for her if she wasn't so casually evil.
As for Nadia, she lives in a tiny apartment in Japan. For a while she has a roommate, Madlen but she gets sent home for gaining an inch on her waist. She doesn't have any sort of chaperon and she doesn't speak English or Japanese. Nadia, barely gets work in Japan and in the end leave the country $2000 in debt to her agency. Her story isn't unique. Unfortunately as long as the fashion industry demands super young models and young girls from poor countries like Russia are willing to take these risks, and psychopaths like Ashley are willing to profit from these practices nothing will change for young girls like Nadia.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this documentary on Netflix streaming. It obviously was filmed
almost 5 years ago but it is hard to find out what happened subsequent.
It was conceived by Ashley Arbaugh, herself a former model from a young age, I believe 18. She says she has been in and around the business for 15 years, so she was in her early 30s when this film was made. She has gone from modeling to being a scout, seemingly specializing in girls from remote regions of Russia. Arbaugh hates the business but she has to make a living and she knows this business.
The deception starts when she is making presentations to young girls, typically 11 to 15, and their parents. These are honest, hard- working but poor families, they want opportunities for their children and also could use the money for issues at home, like renovating the home to make a couple more bedrooms. Arbaugh plainly tells them they will get the equivalent of $8000 US plus at least 3 jobs that will pay them and, "unlike other agencies the girls will not get in debt to the agency."
As the story unfolds we see that is clearly all a big lie. The girls, sent to Japan, go on shoots but are told they didn't get the job, yet some time later the girls find their photos in fashion magazines. Their contract specifies if they grow only 1 cm (less than 1/2 inch) in any of their three measurements, bust, waist, or hips, they will be sent home. One girl actually uses this as a way to get home early after she becomes disillusioned. Both girls we see go home (a different times) with debts to the agency of about $2000 US.
The documentary features 13-yr Russian girl Nadya Vall, chosen simply because she was being evaluated when the filming started. She is a sweet kid, tall and skinny, from a nice family but thrown into something she had zero preparation for. She copes best she can but gets very lonesome for home. It is hard to imagine how she was able to deal with what was thrown at her, and I found myself wondering what her actual expectations had been as she was getting into this.
This is a very worthwhile film simply for showing the seedy underbelly of the unregulated international child model business. Although not covered it is strongly implied that it is common for many of them to resort also to prostitution simply to make enough money to survive. All kids have dreams of some sort, no matter where they are born, it is sad to see how adults manipulate them for their own gain.
This movie gives us an interesting perspective of the modeling industry. Troubling as it may be sometimes the truth needs to be told. Like was mentioned earlier back home the families think that they are going to be well off and get pulled out of poverty but in reality the odds are against them. And the girls are lonely and not any better off after traveling to these modeling gigs. I think most people already know the things that are presented to us in this documentary but I think once we see it on the big screen it a little harder to ignore. Great movie to see for young girls and anybody who it involved in the fashion industry.
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