Benedetta wants to disappear. An iconic fashion model in the 1960s, she became a muse to Warhol, Dali, 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 has 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
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, to 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.”
BENIAMINO BARRESE - Director / Cinematographer
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 worldwide. The Disappearance of My Mother is his first feature-length film as a director.
FILIPPO MACELLONI - Producer
Filippo Macelloni is an award-winning director, producer and writer. His work has played in numerous film festivals and on TV networks across the world. Among his most significant credits are the mockumentary Il Mundial dimenticato - The lost World Cup, co-produced and directed with Lorenzo Garzella, which premiered at the Venice FIlm Festival in 2012; the 2011 documentary Silvio Forever, co-directed with Roberto Faenza, a satirical biopic of former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi; and the documentary Children Over Time (Rai Teche/Rai Cinema 2016), finalist for the Focal International Awards. With a background in architecture, Filippo is also an accomplished creator of video and art installations and exhibits for museums and institutions in Italy and abroad.
VALENTINA CICOGNA - Editor
Valentina Cicogna is an editor and screenwriter of feature films and documentaries produced and distributed by the main Italian broadcasters and selected in international documentary festivals such as Cinéma du Réel, Visions du Réel and IDFA. The latest documentary written and edited by Valentina, The Call, premiered at IDFA 2017 and won the Midlength Award at Hot Docs 2018. She teaches in the Masters program at OffiCine, IED's school of cinema, and at CISA, Locarno's school of cinema.
written & directed Beniamino Barrese
editing Valentina Cicogna
cinematography Beniamino Barrese, Brian Fawcett
music composer Aaron Cupples, Miguel Miranda & Jose Miguel Tobar
sound design Massimo Mariani
graphic design Sammy Zarka
produced by Filippo Macelloni
executive producers Beniamino Barrese, Giovanni Storti, Lorenzo Garzzella, Hayley Pappas, Matt Ippolito, Bryn Mooser
associate producers Paolo Borraccetti, Andrea Maria Lehner, Giulio Luciani
a Nanof production in collaboration with Rai Cinema and Ryot Films
with the support of MiBAC - Direzione Generale Cinema | Sensi Contemporanei Toscana per il Cinema
NANOF is an independent production company based in Rome (Italy), founded by filmmakers Filippo Macelloni and Lorenzo Garzella. Its main focus is producing content focused on global interest topics, social and current affairs, culture and art issues, aimed to reach a wide audience.
Since 2001, NANOF has produced documentaries, narrative films, video installations and television projects, developing an extensive network of collaborators internationally, working both in Italy and in co-production with foreign partners.
RYOT Films is Verizon Media's Emmy Award®-winning, Academy Award®-nominated premium film studio. RYOT Films has produced a slate of critically acclaimed projects that have debuted at Sundance, Tribeca, SXSW, and Hot Docs, among others. RYOT Films’ documentaries have been distributed theatrically with partners from HBO and POV to Showtime, Netflix, Amazon, NatGeo, and ESPN. Highlights include back-to-back Academy Award® nominations for Best Documentary Short Subject for BODY TEAM 12 and WATANI: MY HOMELAND. This year, RYOT Films’ latest projects - feature documentary ON HER SHOULDERS and short-form documentary LIFEBOAT are both currently shortlists for the 2019 Academy Awards®. In 2018, as part of its commitment to funding groundbreaking storytelling, RYOT Films launched a multi-year multimillion dollar equity fund with Vice studios to produce premium documentaries. RYOT Films and their sister company RYOT are divisions of Verizon’s family of media properties, Verizon Media.