Benedetta Barzini insists she wants to disappear. She’s no stranger to the camera lens—or “the enemy,” as she describes it; as a model in the 1960s, she worked with Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon before leaving the fashion industry to embrace communism and radical feminism as an academic. But at 75, she’s ready to escape the expectations of others by withdrawing from the world. She fantasizes about moving to a remote island—just as her son, first-time feature director Beniamino Barrese, begins filming this intimate, intrusive, and often contentious documentary portrait of his mother.
Suddenly, Barzini is at the mercy of her own flesh and blood instead of renowned artists or photographers; he captures her performing mundane acts while she constantly reiterates her aversion to his camera. In a particularly memorable scene, Barzini and her longtime friend Lauren Hutton find it necessary to shout at Barrese in order to gain a modicum of privacy; still, he ends up filming them clandestinely from the adjoining room. Barrese frames his documentary as a way of giving voice to his mother as a young woman, but is he denying her her voice in the present?
The Disappearance of My Mother is a fascinating study of how a woman desperate for relief from the male gaze can nonetheless be bound to it by maternal love as well as societal pressures—and how our desire to vanish aligns with our desire to be truly seen.
Sponsored by Anna & John J. Sie Foundation, Anna Maglione-Sie Endowment in Italian Culture University of Denver, Istituto Italiano di Cultura Chicago, University of Denver College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Languages & Literatures, DC Pie CO
Producer: Beniamino Barrese, Filippo Macelloni | Editor: Valentina Cicogna | Cinematographer: Beniamino Barrese | Screenwriter: Beniamino Barrese
Cast: Carlotta Antonelli, Beniamino Barrese, Benedetta Barzini, Michela De Rossi