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The photo model that would not be filmed

The Disappearance of My Mother
Regissør: Beniamino Barrese
( Italia)

SKY LINSE LICE / The camera-dependent photo model is now shredding the son's worn-out documentary, while criticizing the image-driven model industry she has had as a livelihood.


Beniamino Barrese is a photographer and naturally fascinated by photos – both photo and film. He tries to immortalize his 76-year-old mother, Benedetta Barzini, on film, but encounters tough resistance. The mother is a former top model from the fashion industry, but has become a feminist and tries to get away from filming. "F ** k off!" She says to the film camera. From seeking attention in front of the camera, she is now very critical of the image-driven fashion industry. The Disappearance of My Mother is a film about two strong personalities on collision course and with completely different views of the world.

The conflict between the two opens up a discussion about the importance of the visual in our modern society, and the mother's background is set in a larger cultural and socio-political context. Barrese accidentally discovers her mother's model portfolio and is surprised to see her pictured on the cover of fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In the 1960s, celebrities such as Andy Warhol and Richard Avedon were in their mother's circle. Barrese is curious and would like to merge the mother's different sides – the mother as he knows her, and the top model he sees pictured. It will be a project that documents a love-and-hate relationship with photography, pictures and film and at the same time shows some of the dynamics between mother and son.


What happened to her mother, Benedetta Barzini? She was Feminist into adulthood. We get to know her as she teaches students a critical look at the modeling industry and the way women are portrayed. Benedetta showcases pictures of beautiful girls covered in leaves and other things from nature. "What does this represent?" She asks the students. They do not understand where she wants to go, and she answers the question herself: "The photographs sell the idea that women symbolize nature, while man represents reason and thought." shall appear.

How many waves of feminism are needed to change such an oppressor

Barzini is not the only icon of the 1960s who became involved in feminism during second wave feminism between the 1960s and the 1980s. During the Berlin this year was Callisto McNulty's documentary Delphine and Carole shown. The movie is about actress Delphine Watching, as with friend Carole Roussopoulos became France's first video activist. They made films that attacked the male-dominated samfunnet. In 1981 they made the documentary Be Pretty and Shut Up, portraying French and American actresses (including Maria Schneider, Jane Fonda and Jenny Agutter) who tell about sexism and how women are portrayed in film and treated in the film industry.

There was a MeToo motion before metoo. Now, 50 years after the second wave of feminism, the fashion industry is worse than ever. Images of women in commercials, fashion magazines and in movies are not only controlled by men but also manipulated (the "photoshop") by men. Women are made thinner, younger and more "perfect" artificially. At the same time, many teenage girls and younger women are trying to emulate these fake images. How many waves of feminism are needed for us to change this suppressive system?


Barrese takes a stand as the image defender. We don't get too familiar with his love of photography, and his notes tell more than the film does: "Ever since I got a camera from Dad for my XNUMXth birthday, taking photos has been a way to keep people I love to use them to help memory is an understandable motif, but is that the only thing? Barrese goes a long way in confronting the mother, asking personal questions like, "When did you last shower?" The mother: "Two weeks ago."

The Disappearance of My Mother Director Beniamino
The Disappearance of My Mother
Director Beniamino

We can't quite grasp what lies behind his obsession for the mother and her model images. He gets different models to recreate his mother's previous model pictures and read aloud from her diaries. It is not clear what the fix around this means. Did he miss his mother when he was little? What about his siblings and dad we never hear of? More self-reflection, skinlessness and openness would have added a new dimension to the documentary.

More self-reflection, skinlessness and openness would have added a new dimension to the documentary.

Barrese, on the other hand, is generous with the effects. He spoils the viewer by demonstrating the many possibilities of the image. He uses the entire arsenal of techniques and methods. He combines different formats, mixes black and white with colors, mixes archive images with reconstructions and uses different observation techniques. In the film, the former top model talks about disappearing. Is it to disappear from the limelight she thinks? Whether it is sincere or symbolic is unclear. We see in several sequences that the mother travels away, by both car and boat, and that she walks alone in the woods. Barrese persuades her mother to collaborate on the film. In the film's final sequence, he lets her get the last shot: The former top model turns the lid on the film camera, and the picture goes in black. The discussion about the meaning of the picture, however, is still open.

Translated by Iril Kolle

Astra Soldiers
Astra Zoldnere
Soldiers is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist.

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