Girl Model (POV 2012), which had its U.S. premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas, this week, aims a spotlight at a part of the fashion industry that is especially unseemly, where young girls, barely into their teen years, are exploited.

Though these arrangements are legal — parents sign the contracts and the girls, some as young as 13, are only too eager for an opportunity to escape their conditions — they are ethically dubious, to say the least.

What makes this documentary, co-directed by A. Sabin and David Redmon, so arresting, is its focus on Ashley Arbaugh, a former model turned international model scout. In the film, she finds herself conflicted in her job, which requires her to supply her clients in Japan and other countries with girl models.

It’s Arbaugh’s moral turmoil that we latch on to and, as our avatar, in which we hope good choices are made. But things are never quite that simple. Arbaugh’s ambitious, and she’s come to rationalize that she is looking out for the girls’ best interests. Though her language may make her sounds like a pimp, Girl Model doesn’t judge Arbaugh. The documentary is not meant to be an exposé of an industry, as co-director A. Sabin told me on camera, while at the festival.

Girl Model will be broadcast on POV later in 2012. Here’s the trailer:

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Guest blogger Adam Schartoff is a freelance film journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. He's the founder and programmer of the Brooklyn-based film series Filmwax.