FEMINISIM: Once an iconic fashion model, now a radical feminist, Benedetta Barzini and son clash to capture her lasting image of liberation.
Astra Zoldnere
Zoldnere is a Latvian film director, curator and publicist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: July 31, 2019

The Disappearance of My Mother is an intriguing relationship story, a clash between two individuals and worldviews. Fascinated with images, photographer Beniamino Barrese tried to make a movie about his mother, Benedetta Barzini, while the ex-fashion model does her best to avoid the filming process. «F**k off», – she says to the camera. Once a goddess of the image industry, now she is its toughest critic.

The personal is public

This private family story opens a public discussion about the meaning of images in contemporary society. As autoethnographic research, The Disappearance of My Mother connects Barrese’s biography with a wider cultural and sociopolitical context. He writes that his mother never told him she was a fashion model. He discovered her portfolio by accident and was surprised seeing her on the covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. In the 60s she was hanging out with the likes of Andy Warhol and Richard Avedon. Intrigued about combining the two disconnected images of his mother, Berrese started his project – a documentary about love and hate of images, pictures, and movies.

A feminist perspective

What happened to Benedetta Barzini? Well, she has become a feminist. Now, we get to know her as an older woman who teaches fashion students a critical perspective. Benedetta shows them pictures of beautiful girls covered with leaves and other objects from nature. She poses a question – what do these pictures represent? As the students remain clueless, she provides the answer herself. The pictures sell the terrible idea that woman stands for nature, whereas man represents reason and thought. She keeps on attacking the fashion industry and its exploitative mechanisms by which men shape the image of women.

The Disappearance of My Mother, a film by Beniamino Barrese

Barzini is not the only beauty icon from the 60s who has become actively involved in the second-wave feminism movement. This year’s Berlinale screened Callisto McNulty’s documentary Delphine and Carole. That film portrays the …

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