Girl Model: Russian Teens as International Fashion Commodity

Although the title of directors David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s dual portrait of two players in the underage-modeling world might suggest an industry smackdown in the familiar mode of high-documentary dudgeon, Girl Model proves unsettling in any but the usual ways. Redmon and Sabin don’t need statistics and cautionary talking heads to support a case against sending impoverished 13-year-olds across the world to be exploited by fashion grotesques without the protection of a guardian, much less a developed sense of self. They opt instead for a story well-told, and let the other stuff tell itself. That story begins in small-town Siberia, where dozens of pale, pubescent girls align in bikinis, part of a model “casting” they hope will change their lives or, in the case of an elongated blonde named Nadya, build her family a home. Presiding over this casual degradation is Ashley, a self-loathing former model and current Japanese agency scout. Nadya is sent to Tokyo, where countless indifferences await her; Ashley mourns her tenure in a baffling hall of refracted beauty ideals. The radiant sadness of its two subjects—one a soulfully impassive stripling, one a symmetrical husk—forms the center of Girl Model, and that is enough.