Sara Ziff is presently one of the more notable young women on the international supermodel circuit. If you've been in a major city anywhere in the world in the last few years you've likely seen her sinewy form and lovely visage staring down at you from building sized billboards, selling anything from haute couture to skinny jeans. As she began the journey to becoming a top model, Sara and her boyfriend, filmmaking student Ole Schell, began documenting her life as a blossoming model. The result is a rather revealing film, not only about Sara and the choices she's made, but about the industry itself, with its contrasting pleasures and pressures. While there's nothing revealed here that one has not heard before (e.g. models make a lot of money, occasionally use drugs, experience sexual harassment and don't eat much) it's nevertheless a captivating document, revealing once again the vicissitudes of a business so many (mostly) young woman clamor to join. The same audience that attracts America's Top Model will want to see this, but it will find a broader audience on DVD.
Though she began modeling at the age of 14, Sara did not take up the profession full time until she became 18 years old. It was also around this time her long time boyfriend graduated from NYU film school. Then, what had previously been the videotaping of Sara's adventures for family and friends began to reveal the makings of a real film. This process of documentation eventually lead to Sara taking up a camera herself, so that she could include her directorial perspective in the film. She later hands cameras over to several models to diversify the voices and inform the material even more deeply. The result is a film rife with the wonderful contradictions of real life, and thus a film that rings true. Picture Me is not the work of filmmakers with a bone to pick or filmmakers who are uncritical. These are filmmakers who live in and thus know the subject of their movie. They allow sincere reflection on the concerns of fashion models, including the adoration of youth and beauty (including their own youth and beauty) and the unreasonable expectation of eternal youth and all its characteristics. Collectively the result is a fairly astute look at the world of high end modeling that reveals it as potentially lucrative, occasionally dangerous, often boring and sometimes physically and psychologically debilitating--yet always a choice that one can walk away from.
Sara Ziff continues to model while not studying fashion at Columbia University.
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Director: Ole Schell and Sara Ziff
Producer: James Lefkowitz
Running time: 80 min
Release date: September 17 NY, September 24 LA