LA SCOMPARSA DI MIA MADRE
Italy, USA 2019
Hiding behind the camera, her son Beniamino witnesses her journey. Having filmed her since he was a child in spite of all her resistance, he now wants to make a film about her, to keep her close for as long as possible – or, at least, as long as his camera keeps running.
The making of the film turns into a battle between mother and son, a stubborn fight to capture the ultimate image of Benedetta – the image of her liberation.
We always had a strong bond, but I had a feeling that there was so much more behind the part of her that I could see and access. For instance, she never told me that she was a model. I discovered that one day when I found locked in a wardrobe a few big photo portfolios with all her Vogue and Harper's Bazaar covers and editorials from the 1960s. I never told her I had found them, because if she didn’t tell me there was probably a reason. The Benedetta I knew was so different from the girl who was staring at me from the magazine pages – and yet, she was so similar. I couldn’t easily bring together all of the contrasting pieces of my mother’s life, and I started to feel that it was my responsibility to recompose them into a coherent story.
My mum also openly challenged me when it came to why I was taking photos and making films.
Why was I so obsessed with it? Was the camera a way to hide, to avoid confronting my experience fully? Why would I need to rely on a camera to keep track of the things that mattered to me? Why didn’t I keep a memory of them, letting go of what was not worth preserving? As I grew up, the role of images became progressively more dominant in our culture. And while I was starting to work as a photographer and cinematographer, I realised that the questions that my mum had posed in time were becoming more and more relevant.
Making this film became a way to confront my visceral fear of losing forever what is bound to disappear. At the same time it was a way to collect and preserve my mother’s legacy, bringing forward the intellectual ideas and emotional feelings that she had initiated by reflecting on her work as a model. Filming her again turned out to be a real challenge, as it implied exposing my reluctant mum while she was carefully explaining to me that “the lens is the enemy,” and she just wanted to vanish, escaping the gaze and leaving behind the world as she knows it. The journey was hard, and it implied quite a lot of mutual harm –but I hope that she will realise that what I did was hopefully done with the kind of integrity that she has always tried to keep within herself.
As for me, I know that I still haven’t managed to effectively capture her essence in a frame.
Instead, I might have finally learned that this is just impossible. As my mum often repeats, “what truly matters, is always invisible.”
includes fiction and documentary features, commercials, fashion films, music promos and short films, which have travelled around festivals world-wide. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MY MOTHER is his first feature-length film as a director.
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Beniamino Barrese
Written by: Beniamino Barrese
Produced by: Filippo Macelloni, Hayley Pappas
Cinematography: Beniamino Barrese
Editing: Valentina Cicogna
Original Score: Aaron Cupples
Sound: Massimo Mariani
Main Cast: Benedetta Barzini (herself)
Nominations and Awards
- EFA Documentary Selection 2019