Review: Girl Model
Girl Model is the most frightening film I’ve seen this year.
The image the general public are often given of modelling is the Champaign world of celebrities, parties, exotic locations and a life of privilege. However Girl Model doesn’t give us any of the glitz and glamour we associate with the fashion world. What documentarians David Redmond and Ashley Sabin give the audience is a warts and all expose on the horrors of manipulation and the dark underbelly of modelling. Its takes the business of beauty and reveals the ugly truth of exploitation and sexualisation of under-age girls pursuing a career in modelling.
The opening scenes of Girl Model are in themselves the most damming indictments into the modelling industry I’ve ever seen. Beginning in Siberia we see a large crowd of gaunt, swimsuit wearing girls, who no older than 14 years old are herded towards their possible big chance to provide for their impoverished families. These children are wide-eyed with innocence while they wait in a mirrored room to have their photograph taken by a woman named Ashley. Now Ashley is a modelling scout who’s particular line of expertise lies in the Japanese market. What makes this whole set up all the more disturbing is apparently the Japanese like their models to look young. How young? Wellwe’re told that ideally the lucky winner needs to look almost pre-pubescent. Other aspiring models find there chances dashed for having larger hips, having pimples or for even looking vaguely healthy.
After a long day of objectification Ashley manages to find her child in the form of a shy, Siberian thirteen year old named Nadya Vall. Nadya hope’s her modelling career will help support her deprived family and sets off to Tokyo in expectation of her big payday.
From this point on we’re introduced to the video diaries of a young Ashley during her teen years and her attempts to crack the modelling world. It’s here we start to see the inherent isolation and manipulation that appears to be systematic in the modelling world. This video diaries mirror Nadya’s own feelings once she is thrust into Tokyo,without support or care Nadya is lost in a world in which she has no comprehension of and assistance to survive in. Trapped in a vicious circle the obviously distraught Nadya must continue to plough on in the vain hope that she gets the financial reward she dreams of.
It’s to the absolute credit of documentarians David Redmond and Ashley Sabin that they never intrude or influence the documentary,no matter how harrowing the subject matter gets or how desperate and confused those being documented become. They are the silent observer and in a world where some documentary makers put themselves into the centre of the story, it’s refreshing to actually have events play out as naturally as they possibly can in this type of film.
Girl Model is a horrifying yet absorbing story of an industry that see’s women as purely commodities. As long as women are beautiful and desperate enough there will always be someone, somewhere looking to exploit them. We get no redemption at the end of Girl Model, what we’re left with is instead the sight of a woman broken by the morally bankrupt industry she works in, looking to entice new meat into the grinder.
Girl Model the most frightening film of the year so far because it shows that in an industry as broken and diseased as this there is no cure. The industry itself is the problem and in an age as obsessed with beauty and materialism there is nothing more frightening than that.
Down with Film Rating 8/10