Girl Model – Day 4 FFF 2012

Some of the Girl Models Waiting to Audition

One night as I lay in bed listening to the snoring of my dog, I start flipping through the nothingness of cable TV at 2 am. I stop on ‘Dance Moms.’ I watch reality TV occasionally, but mostly shows on MTV that involve challenges and crazy drunk people. I really wasn’t interested in this show. But it was like a train wreck and I couldn’t turn it off. After about three plus hours I was hooked. So when I saw the preview for Girls Models and First Position, I just had to see them.

I needed to know if all dancers and models were just as obsessed and crazy as in the reality TV show. Within minutes of the film starting, the model agency stated a good model starts between 5 to 10 years of age. I immediately thought, “what 5 year old should be modeling and watching what they eat?” It seemed extremely crazy to me.

The film focused around Nadya Vall, a 13 year old from Siberia, who wanted to be a model and help her family from the financial hole they were in. Missah, the owner of Switch Models, believes he’s saving these young girls. He believes the younger the better because ‘youth is beautiful.’ He promises these girls a life of luxury and wealth for their families, and they end up in more debt than before they left.

Girl Model

Ashley Arbaugh is an ex-model who now selects the ‘right’ models for jobs in Tokyo, Japan. She believes the business of modeling has no weight because it changes minute to minute. She also said most girls turn to prostitution because it’s easier than modeling and not considered a terrible thing in a lot of countries.

Both myself and the audience were in complete shock after the film ended. Once the lights in the theatre turned back on, there was a lot of talking behind me. Some of the general comments where “that was a pick me up, huh,” and “I couldn’t even imagine being 12 or 13 in Japan not knowing where to go.” These girls were promised something, and given something completely different. They weren’t with their parents, didn’t speak the language, and didn’t even get paid for the modeling work they did. Their contract could be changed on a day to day basis. If they gained more than 1 inch on their waist, their contract was voided. I have no idea what parent in their right mind would exposure their child to such extreme measures. The girls would cry, talking to their parents, asking to come home.

Before the film I was speaking to some of the volunteers. Doris said she read the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and said the majority of the people said this film was “sad and depressing.” After seeing this film, I would have to agree. No part of what Noah Models was putting the girls through would I ever subject my child to. The company talked about how they always get their girls work and they never leave in debt; yet we didn’t see any girl happy or making money. It’s all just a lie and I have no idea why Missah believes he’s saving these girls lives.

The opening short The Odysseus Gambit was just as sad. Saravuth Inn was one of the babies from Cambodia that was air lifted to the U.S. He has no home and plays chess for money. When I got to the end of the film, I asked myself, ‘what was the point?’ The only conclusion I came to was life is a game of chess. Again, not one of my favorite shorts.

If you’re looking for some sad, depressing movies, be sure to catch Girl Models and The Odysseus Gambit. Instead, take some advice from Doris and see Mamitas to watch someone “grow into adulthood right before your eyes.” She believes the film opens up to you and you “start believing something and end up believing something else.”

Overall, the two movies I saw tonight were nowhere near my favorite films at this year’s festival. Disappointing.

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