The narrative intertwines the stories of Ashley Arbaugh, a model scout, and Nadya, a 13-year-old girl from a poor family in Siberia. Ms. Arbaugh’s and Nadya’s paths cross on one of the scout’s trips on the Trans-Siberian Railway as she looks for girls who might be attractive to the Japanese fashion market. Nadya, who speaks only Russian, is handed a contract in English and Japanese and is promised $8,000. She is not told that her living costs will be deducted from that amount.
After many unsuccessful castings, Nadya returns to Russia in debt.
In one scene, Nadya’s modeling reel shows her staring and posing suggestively at the camera for what seemed like forever. “Nadya had images in her room of models and fashion images plastered up on her family house,” said Ms. Sabin. “And I think that as a young girl, when you see those images every day, that’s how you get drawn into that glamor and the allure and the mystery behind it. And the idea of being a top model was probably something she had considered. But at 13, 14, 15, how much can they really understand about the dreams versus the reality?”