There have been any number of behind-the-scenes documentaries on the world of fashion, but Ole Schell and Sara Ziff's revealing and engaging "Picture Me" must surely be unique. Schell was a recent film school graduate when Ziff, his girlfriend, decided to forsake college to pursue a career as a fashion model. The two filmed a diary of her experiences, covering a period of five or six years during which we witness her evolving attitudes about herself and her profession in a succinct and vibrant film.
Ziff's father is an NYU professor of neurobiology and her mother a lawyer, and they are wary of her choice but supportive. A lovely honey blond, Ziff shot to the top fast and was soon making more money than her father, but the excitement and glamour of big money and travel gradually wear off in the face of grueling schedules — the constant moving among New York, Milan and Paris, the long hours during Fashion Weeks, especially in Paris, where at one point Sara breaks down from sheer exhaustion.
Ziff and her colleagues, all articulate and thoughtful, consider the drawbacks of a modeling career — the feelings of exploitation, being treated like a robot, a shaky sense of self-worth as they compete with skinny 14-year-olds — and an increasing concern with how the images of perfection models project in the media impacts young girls and women.
In time, Ziff finds a way to reconcile her modeling with a pursuit of higher education, giving off an aura of smiling self-confidence and self-respect.
"Picture Me." MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. Playing at the Sunset 5, West Hollywood.