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Girl Model exposes the shocking supply of pre-pubescent girls to the Japanese modeling industry. The film follows 13-year-old Nadya from poverty in Siberia to her life as a model in Tokyo. American scout Ashley promises her a lucrative career, but Nadya’s optimism fades when faced with the dehumanizing culture of the industry.

Photo Credit: Meghan Brosnan

Despite a lack of obvious similarities between Siberia and Tokyo, a thriving model industry connects these distant regions. Girl Model follows two protagonists involved in this industry: Ashley, a deeply ambivalent model scout who scours the Siberian countryside looking for fresh faces to send to the Japanese market, and one of her discoveries, Nadya, a 13-year-old plucked from her rustic home in Russia and dropped into the center of bustling Tokyo with promises of a profitable career. After Ashley’s initial discovery of Nadya, they rarely meet again, but their stories are inextricably bound. As Nadya’s optimism about rescuing her family from financial hardship grows, her dreams contrast against Ashley’s more jaded outlook about the industry’s corrosive influence. After months of fruitless casting calls, and mounting expenses we witness the frustrating reality of these young girls’ lives in Tokyo.

Photo Credit: Natasha McKittrick

As we enter further into this world, it more and more resembles a hall of mirrors, where appearances can’t be trusted, perceptions become distorted and there is no clear way out. Will Nadya, and the other girls like her, be able to find anyone to help them navigate the often murky world of the modeling industry? Will they follow a path like Ashley’s, having learned the tricks of the trade but unable to escape its lure? In an effort to pay off their mounting debt will they do as some of their predecessors and resort to prostitution? Or will they head back home, their dreams crushed? Indeed, it’s difficult to know who these young girls can trust and where the industry will take them.

Directed and produced by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin. Girl Model was produced in association with CBC News Network, POV in the U.S., and BBC Storyville in the U.K.

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