First Hit: Ended up feeling sad and disturbed by watching this eye opening and well done film.
Young girls (Ages 12 – 16) from small towns in cold Siberia line up in a cavernous open building in panties and bras while strangers view them for the look that “the Japanese want” to see in their models.
The girls are many things the Japanese aren’t; tall, round eyes, and white skin. The girls are live in towns where education is low, farming and manufacturing are the main sources of income and it is the wish of many parents that their child get out of the life they are destined to have if they stay.
The illusion is that if they get chosen to model in Japan they will be guaranteed two paying jobs paying them $8,000.00, and the reality is that they will be charged for expenses, don’t get the jobs they are promised, and end up owing money.
The film focuses on a couple of models (Nadya Vall and Rachel Blais), a former model who has an eye for selecting the right Japanese models (Ashley Arbaugh), and the owner of the modeling agency who actually believes he’s doing right by everyone.
Ashley is in her thirties, travels all the time, and despite an occasional word about caring for the people she picks, she has no real compassion for the situations she puts the models in. The scene when she visits Rachel and Nadya’s small one room apartment in Japan exemplifies her lack of compassion. Ashley’s conversation with the model company’s owner told the audience she wanted to be as deluded as the owner about the right livelihood he brings to young girls.
This man actually believes he is undoing previous lives of bad karma by offering these girls a chance to model. One of the most powerful sets of scenes, was when Nadya landed in Japan, wasn’t met, didn’t speak the language, finally found where she was staying, stoically travels to her appointments and when she gets to talk to her mom the first time on the phone, she totally breaks down.
She was amazing at hiding what was going on within her, but one could see this was an incredibly scary experience. I was a little surprised at the epilogue of Nadya’s journey but it was understandable.
Ashley Sabin and David Redmon did an amazing job of getting trust and access to film Nadya’s journey and Ashley’s real indifference.
Overall: This was a powerful film and needs to be mandatory watching for all in Siberia who think modeling is the way out.