REVIEW: “The Disappearance of My Mother”


“The Disappearance of My Mother” NANOF and RYOT.

Norah Wulkopf

Now playing at the Speed from Jan. 17-19, “The Disappearance of My Mother” blurs the line between documentarian and subject as Beniamino Barrese gives his mother, Benedetta Barzini, a chance to explain her outlook on beauty, vanity and cameras. Well, “giving her a chance” may be a little generous to Barrese; every step of the way Barzini is fighting him.

Barzini’s aversion to cameras is completely warranted. Barzini was Vogue cover girl in the 60s, a radical feminist and political activist in the 70s and now teaches about the male gaze and how it portrays women in art at the Polytechnic University of Milan. She’s had her photo taken enough times. Now she only wants to disappear.

The simple act of making this documentary defies Barzini’s wish. That’s what makes this so interesting: Barzini is an almost unwilling participant. Barrese and Barzini bicker throughout as he pushes her to share more of her life on camera and she tries to explain why she wants to move forward and leave her photographed supermodel life behind her. Their conversations reveal Barrese’s naive view of his mother and explain Barzini’s dissatisfied view of the world.

“The Disappearance of My Mother” focuses more on Barzini’s reflections on her life than on the actual events that took place. Her elaborations on beauty and memory unveil a woman who’s been written off as just a pretty face and ridiculed for her political opinions. Leading a public life only brought her unpleasantness, and now she wants to live like she never got the chance to. Before you’re shown her past, you can see in her eyes what she’s lived through.

Early on in the documentary, Barzini says, “The real me isn’t photographable.” She elaborates that no photo can capture her essence since she’s playing the role of a woman in fancy clothes or whoever the photographer wants her to be.

“The Disappearance of My Mother” is like a painting of Barzini; it takes artistic license and is influenced by Barrese’s perception of his mother. And, it’s a beautiful portrait that Barrese paints.

You can purchase tickets here.

Featured Image Citation: “The Disappearance of My mother” is by NANOF and RYOT. This still was released for press and is protected under review, publication and educational purposes.