Italy, USA


Benedetta wants to disappear. As iconic fashion model in the 1960s, she became a muse to Warhol, Dalí, Penn and Avedon. As a radical feminist in the 1970s, she fought for the rights and emancipation of women. But at the age of 75, she becomes fed up with all the roles that life imposed upon her and decides to leave everything and everybody behind, to disappear to a place as far as possible from the world she knows.

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.

Director's Statement

Ever since my dad gave me a camera when I turned seven, making images has been a strategy to keep hold of the people I loved, saving them from the passing of time. I tried to photograph and film my mother too, but pointing a camera at her has never been easy. I have always felt a reverence, a sort of resistance in the action of photographing her. She just was too much to be contained in a single image—too beautiful, too smart, too funny, too intelligent, too aggressive, too incredible. For as hard as I tried, I just could not effectively capture her soul in a shot. She was a mystery to me.
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.”

Director's Biography

Born in 1986, Beniamino Barrese graduated with a degree in Philosophy at Statale di Milano, International Political Economy at King’s College London and later received his MA in Cinematography at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, UK. Since 2011 he has been working as a filmmaker, director of photography and photographer. His work as a DP
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

Cinematography: Beniamino Barrese

Editing: Valentina Cicogna

Original Score: Aaron Cupples

Sound: Massimo Mariani

Cast: Benedetta Barzini (herself)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary 2019
  • Documentary Selection 2019