GIRL MODEL (2012) – Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

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The commonplace perception about modeling is that it is a glamorous career that pays extremely well and offers fabulous opportunities for travel to exotic destinations where you get to hang out with the world’s most beautiful people in the world’s best hotels, dining at the best restaurants and wearing fabulous clothing and accessories.

With all that in the offering, the job has allure, to say the least.

And, that’s especially true for girls who’ve grown up under difficult circumstances and are looking for a way to work their way towards a better life. But, as we see in Girl Model, the a young model must follow to the professional runway isn’t always as smooth as they imagined it might be, and it may actually lead young and naive aspirants to various degrees of personal crisis.

In Girl Model, filmmakers Ashley Sabin and David Redmon follow 13-year old Nadya Vall, who willingly leaves her home and impoverished family in rural Siberia to seek fame and fortune in Tokyo, where her blond hair, blue eyes and baby doll looks are considered highly marketable assets by agents who book modeling gigs with Japanese photo editors who favor those qualities.

Nadya is recruited for the venture by Ashley Arbaugh, a American who worked as a model in Japan and now is an agent representing other models who do so. Arbaugh knows how difficult getting assignments can be, and has experienced feelings of rejection and inadequacy that hit when you don’t get the job.

Arbaugh’s ambivalent feelings about her role as recruiter and wranger come to the fore as she observes Nadya struggling with the go-see calls, where she is paraded in front of editors who inspect her as though she were meat, and wind up picking someone else — another blond, blue-eyed tween whose look they just happen, for no particular reason, prefer. The traumatized Nadya is sinking deeply into despair. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).