Benedetta Barzini, the first Italian model to appear on the cover of American Vogue after being spotted by fashion icon Diana Vreeland who soon arranged a photoshoot with renounced photographer, Irving Penn, it was this series of events that led to Barzini’s success in New York City.
Soon she was being photographed by Richard Avedon and the muse of great American artists such as Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, soon after appeared on the cover of the first issue of Vogue Italia in November 1965 and was invited to Kennedy’s house for dinner simply for being beautiful.
The Disappearance of My Mother, showcases a raw behind the scenes look at the life of the model, the societal struggles and challenges she faced being a public figure throughout her life – people celebrating her beauty and iconism, her inwardly challenges are the focus of this documentary showcasing aspects of ageism, beauty, and glamor.
Where she is comfortable – and where her vision and personality are quite clear – are behind the scenes. This is where her son Beniamino Barrese spends the majority of time in this raw, passionate, nostalgic documentary about a subject so close to his heart.
In an intimate dinner in Downtown Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, Barzini and Barrese came together with close friends and media to celebrate the film – unlike a colossal film release it was private and harmonious with few people reflecting together on the authentic nature of the subject – Barzini.
“Beauty is a nuisance”, notes Barzini, reflecting over her years through the scope of a ‘free soul’ without the worries of today’s beauty standards constricting her values, nor the ideals of society restricting her personality. Her thoughts and genuine attitude toward her life achievements are more so towards her self-discovery post modeling, where she realized her voice had power and the freedom of thought and opinion that she exercised from feminism to equality.”What is the point of having to sell our bodies without any quality or talent?” Barzini states during. the film, rejecting unnecessary opinions about her from her peers and critics, rather celebrating her values and beliefs.
Having let go of much of that idolization and fixation of ‘perfection’ that was apparent in her early modeling days her evolution of self is clearly evident in the woman she is today, through the lens of her son – it is obvious she is a passionate, intelligent woman who is most at ease when away from the camera. Barrese captures personal moments in most parent and child relationships that are often hidden from the world, the raw energy and passion between mother and son is cherished by both throughout the film from reluctance to film to the loving embraces shared.
By turning the camera inward, Barrese destroys the image of a ‘stereotypical fashion icon’ with bona fide intention, a poetic narrative of time-lapsed events and occurrences that have defined their relationship. Irritated when she finds her son is filming her in her sleep, and when visitors in town she ostracizes Baresse and his camera although he continues filming from a parallel room. An exquisitely crafted piece on the life of an icon, Barrese stated ‘I want to show the young girls of today what a strong woman my mother is and how she faced challenges and obstacles that came her way – I was able to document her – my favorite subject’. The loving, somewhat tense nature of their relationship is apparent but provides a tender and nostalgic tone to the film.
In 2018, Barzini, took a pen to Vogue magazine, where her career once started and noted in a tell-all story of her life “I never really felt like an active participant in my life, merely a witness to the spectacle.”
Much like the film, Barzini wants to ‘disappear’ – “The truth is, it’s only when you stop worrying about becoming ‘invisible’ that you are able to see yourself.”
The Disappearance of My Mother will screen for brief runs from December 6 through 2020 in select cities throughout the U.S. and Italy.