Friday, July 19, 2013

Movie Review - Girl Model (2011)

"Just like Noah saved all the animals, I'm trying to save all these young girls...I'm putting them on the plane, sending them to the west, giving them a chance where they can find themselves...I hope that someday they will do some good to the other people.  So in a way this is a religious matter: this is my bible." 

-Tigran, owner of NOAH Models

Every year, NOAH Models holds an open contest to all aspiring Siberian models with Ashley, the main talent scout.  Hundreds of young teenage girls crowd the stage and studio, filed one by one to be accounted for and judged.  The winner is granted a modeling contract in Japan to appear in advertisements and promised significant amounts of money.  All of these rewards seem like a great opportunity to these young girls like 13-year-old Nadya Vall, a simple country girl from a low income home.  This documentary follows her journey after she "wins" the contest.  What she experiences is the complete opposite.

Watching this film is like experiencing the slow descent into a world of loneliness and exploitation.  Nadya is sent off on a plane to Tokyo alone, expected to figure out how to find where she is supposed to go knowing broken English and no Japanese at all.  She later meets her roommate, Madlen, another aspiring model who was lost wandering the subway system for four hours.  Nadya is told to lie that she is 15, is carted around Japan for a few shoots but never paid.  Both models are never paid while they are there, and need money sent from home just to eat.

Ashley, the main talent scout, is a product of the same system.  She openly admits that she hates the industry, never had a passion for it, but does what is required of her as a scout to find prepubescent looking girls for Tokyo.  Ashley started as a young model and this industry is all she knows.  So she exploits the girls the same way she was years ago.  There is an obvious sadness to her as she carries herself through her spacious empty glass house.  Some rooms are lined with a disturbing amount of plastic baby dolls. 

The filmmakers said that they never planned what they were going to capture in the finished documentary.  It is surprising how much this industry takes advantage of girls from poor rural towns.  What is more disturbing is the denial and apathy involved in all the grown adults that perpetuate the system.    

 Girl Model is available for stream on Netflix.

Not Rated




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