directors David Redmon, Ashley Sabin
Exports/imports. Siberia sends beautiful young girls to Japan to model. An American ex-model is the talent scout. Her partner, a Russian agent gets some dough, considers himself a humanitarian, if not a saint. Japanese agents shop them around. Promised jobs/money/breakthroughs don’t come about. The girls live in tiny Tokyo apartments becoming indebted to the agency.
The crimes and misdemeanors of Girl Model aren’t on the scale of horrifying. Though that is only the crimes more explicitly on display. What is vaguely suggested: sexual molestation, exploitation, ultimately prostitution is much more ominous. But even in this film, these possibilities are given only the slightest investigation.
The film focuses primarily on one girl, 13 year old Nadya, a sweet, beautiful, tall, slender girl from rural poverty. This opportunity could help her family. She goes, is not met at the airport, speaks not a word of Japanese, gets no money, no jobs, is lonely.
The film also focuses on the American talent scout, Ashley Arbaugh, is the other focal point. She’s a very beautiful woman herself, but just over 30, her days of modeling in Japan are long gone. She continues to operate in the industry because it pays her bills, buys her a nice house. She is not unaware of the reality of what these girls are getting taken in for, but she doesn’t care. She’s dead somewhere inside it seems. Or maybe inured into numbness. She has no feeling or sympathy for the girls. She seems quite aware that the girls will get ripped off, won’t make it, or maybe will move into prostitution. For girls at the tender ages of 12 and 13, she keeps it moving right along.
It’s quite an ugly portrait.
But it’s a portrait that seems far from complete. There are tons of compelling issues within the film, they are given the shortest of shrift, not enlightened, not investigated. It’s as if the film-makers aren’t a whole step or two further away from Ms. Arbaugh themselves. It’s a squandered film.