Guest post by Leslie Bailey
Bio: freelance writer | lifestyle blogger | cultural observer | fancy-pants columnist | martini lover | adventuress living a semi charmed life
Ah, to be 13 again. The glowing cheeks, the sparkling, wondering eyes and the virgin hair that has yet to see a bad dye job. It’s this very look that has created an obsession with youth within the Japanese modeling market – but that’s not where this story begins.
The documentary Girl Model introduces 13 year-old Russian girl, Nadya Vall at a modeling cattle call where innocent and often very young girls parade around in string bikinis, hoping to scrape up enough English to tell the critical scouts their name and age – which is usually falsified anyway, for legality purposes.
The film follows Vall on her journey from her stark home in Siberia to the bright lights of Tokyo to pursue a modeling career. While most hopeful models seek fame and fortune - a thought that certainly spreads a smile across Nadya’s face – the willowy, blonde Nadya only hopes to find a better life and perhaps support her financially-struggling family.
The loosely constructed, low-budget film also follows the eccentric (she keeps naked toy baby dolls behind her couch in her bare, museum-esque Connecticut home) and emotionally flat (why is she so numb) model scout, Ashley Arbaugh, a former model.
Film-makers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin attempt to parallel Arbaugh and Vall, using Arbaugh’s own video clips from her time spent modeling in Japan in the 1990s. If her present condition is any indication of what’s to come for young Nadya, one hopes she winds up taking another path – preferably one not connected with human trafficking, eating disorders, drugs, and prostitution – subjects which the film dances around but never addresses directly with hard-facts.
While there’s little subject matter in Girl Model that one would find shocking (except for a disturbing foray into Arbaugh’s personal health issues) it’s still a disturbing yet universally important reminder that in the world of girl models, some can only hope to make it past 13.
David Redmon, Ashley Sabin 2011
Categories: Matter of Fact Features
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The 9th annual Indianapolis International Film Festival features more than 100 films in 10 days. July 19-29 at IMA and Earth House. See the entire 2012 line up!