Girl Model (2011): Film Review (8.9/10 – Great)
Review by The Globe and Mail
One of the most difficult tasks for a critic is to review content that is morally repugnant. Watching Girl Model, a shocking American documentary that follows a New York model scout and the 13-year-old Siberian girl she sends unchaperoned to Tokyo, it is hard to know whether to applaud directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin for exposing the underside of the fashion business – or demand they abandon their documentarian stance and rescue young Nadya on the spot.
The documentary begins as Ashley Arbaugh (not to be confused with the co-director) arrives in Novosibirsk to review an auditorium full of pencil-thin girls. She is scouting for the Japanese market, where they want them new and “fresh” – young enough that we will eventually hear them being coached to lie about their ages. A former model herself, Arbaugh is dismissive of her work, claiming the ever-shifting aesthetics are based on nothing at all, while she dredges up concern for the girls that seems merely pro forma.
Review by Guardian
This deeply dispiriting documentary follows the 13-year-old Nadja on a hopeless journey from her home town in Siberia to Japan and elsewhere after being recruited by a dubious model agency and told to give her age as 15. It is a tragic story of exploitation and human indifference.
Review by Shadows on the Wall
This documentary takes a remarkably frank look at the fashion business, using the unusual perspective of a young Russian seeking work in Japan. And along the way it reveals unsettling truths about the global modelling industry.
In Siberia, hundreds of thin young women gather in swimsuits to audition to become a model. But the scout, Ashley, isn’t looking for just any model: she needs to be suited for the Japanese market. Ashley settles on 13-year-old Nadya, and takes her to Tokyo to go on a series of casting calls. But Nadya’s experience is nothing like she or her family imagined it would be. The film is shot and edited with minimal fuss, observing scenes with a sometimes uncomfortable intimacy. In Siberia, the filmmakers follow Nadya to her house. She considers herself a “grey mouse”, just an ordinary girl, but her lively agent Tigran encourages her to go for it. And even though Nadya is clearly worried about travelling so far from home, her family supports sees it as an opportunity, as Nadya will earn a substantial fee that will help finish building work on the house.