Girl Model

Fashion faker

GIRL MODEL (David Redmon, Ashley Sabin). 78 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 13) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See Times. Rating: NNN

Desperation knows no bounds among the poverty-stricken Siberian girls in this bleak documentary by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin.

Barely pubescent young women wait in packed cattle calls, clad only in their underwear, hoping to be picked to pose in Japan – where they like them young and short and where their recruiters say they’re guaranteed work.

Not so fast. When recruiter Ashley Arbaugh chooses 13-year-old Nadya and sends her thousands of miles from home, the young girl gets a photo portfolio, a few auditions, lots of judgment from art directors and rapidly accumulating debts.

I wish we’d seen more of Ashley’s intriguing ambivalence as a former model, she knows the pitfalls of the industry, yet tells bald-faced lies to the young girls begging for attention. And the modelling agency running this strange operation is never confronted by the filmmakers.

But the opening meat market sequence is spectacular, and the cautionary tale is important, especially for aspiring teens whose fantasies leave no room for the reality of exploitation.

NOW senior film writer Norman Wilner facilitates a panel after the 9 pm screening Friday (April 13).

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