17 September 2010

Beyond the Looking Glass

One of the major changes in the world over the last hundred or so years has been the way information is gathered and shared, thanks to extensive advances in technology. We now have things like the Internet, by which we can send messages, search for news anywhere in the world, and transfer files and photos at the click of a button. Television provides us with information and entertainment from all over the globe. We can carry our music with us in little boxes that can hold hundreds of thousands of songs at a time.

Over the course of five years, American model Sara Ziff has snuck her ex-boyfriend Ole Schell and his video camera into shows, castings, photoshoots, and everything else she's done in the international circuit. This has resulted in the collection of hundreds of hours of behind the scenes footage of the fashion world (including personal video diaries taken by Ziff's model friends, and interviews with top industry photographers and designers), which the two have whittled down into an 82 minute documentary released in New York today call Picture Me: A Model's Diary

Before you think this is going to be all fun and games like we usually see in cute backstage photos from fashion week, let me assure you it is far from. The film is a raw presentation of the deep dark secrets of the business, dealing with everything from the sexual abuse models deal with (we've all heard the rumours of having to sleep with photographers and other professionals to really 'make it'), to the comparatively less shocking difficulties of long hours, little sleep, and constant criticism. 

The film has been on the festival circuit for a while now, and is achieving critical acclaim for it's subject matter; when it premiered in Milan in 2009, it won the Audience Award, as well as an award for Best Fashion Film. It is expected to hit theatres on September 30th, though it is in Manhattan today, and LA on the 24th. 

I'm really looking forward to seeing this in full, it looks very interesting, and I think it's also great that attention is being drawn to this issue in a more public way. We have been hearing about things like this for a while, but it's always pushed under the rug and talk is quickly stifled by the industry, which keeps running as usual. Allow me to call attention to recent allegations against American photographer Terry Richardson (not even touching that subject in terms of truth or otherwise right not, but you have to acknowledge that the shoe looks like it fits...). The fact that this film is being released will hopefully give the problem the significant media exposure it deserves. 

Continuing with the thread of new ways to acquire information, this is a very important addition for younger generations. There aren't many teenagers reading the news paper, or watching the news, or doing in depth research about the ways of the world, unless it's for things like school projects. Hell, you can barely get many of them to read a book. One of the main information sources for this age group is movies and television. They will go to films like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Pride & Prejudice instead of reading the book. They learn about the Crusades, the battle of Troy, and William Wallace through what they took in from Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, and Braveheart. So if this movie achieves widespread releases, it will be an excellent opportunity to educate not just adults, but also younger people on exactly how much dirt is under that rug. This is extremely important, especially where this is the age group that populates much of the modelling industry. Change can only happen if there are people working towards it, and people need to be aware of an issue before they make any step in that direction. 

I would encourage you all to show your support of Ziff and Schell's documentary: tell your mates, post links on forums and blogs, friend it on MySpace, whatever. Just get it out there. I'll post a few links here with additional information about the film, along with a trailer for it, so you don't have to do too much leg work. Hooray for revolutionary tactics...

Pease, love, and floating,
Gill Ford

Trailer 1:

Trailer 2:

Official Website
Official MySpace
Thread on tFS
Review at Gawker
Interviews at Gen Art Film Festival
Interview with Sara and Ole

Photo courtesy of trailershut.com

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