Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Disappearance of My Mother’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘The Disappearance of My Mother’

Benedetta Barzini spent a lot of time in front of the camera as one of the most sought-after supermodels of the 1960s. Once she stepped away from that career, however, becoming a radical feminist activist in the process, her relationship with the camera soured. Yet her son, director Beniamino Barrese, refused to stop filming her, relentlessly so, afraid that if he stopped, she might disappear forever.

The Disappearance of My Mother is Barrese’s attempt to keep Barzini’s spirit alive, even if she doesn’t always care to. Part celebratory retrospective and part intimate confessional, the film is a warts-and-all portrait of a woman who has cared so deeply about the world for so long that she’s ready to give up. It’s these ominous sentiments from Barzini that causes Barrese to focus the camera even closer on her, especially in moments when she angrily expresses her desire to be left alone.

Barzini truly is a badass, working with the likes of Diana Vreeland and Richard Avedon and hanging out at the Warhol Factory in the ‘60s before abruptly turning her back on the fashion industry and becoming an outspoken critic of the exploitation of women’s bodies in all kinds of image-based media. At 75 years old, she teaches university courses in Milan and is still highly respected within the fashion world, yet she oftentimes seems lost.

These moments of contemplation and confusion are what Barrese captures perfectly, whether it’s out at London Fashion Week, where she is invited back for a catwalk appearance amongst a circus that she now seems removed from, or as she putters around her home lamenting the downward trajectory of the human race. It may drag on a bit too long at the end, but this heartfelt home movie and its subject are never less than fascinating.

  • Release Date: 4/28/2019
This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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