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Hot Docs 2019: “The Disappearance of My Mother” (2019) ★★★★★


© Nanof

There are many reasons to watch documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival and one of them is the subject matter somehow the programmer knows will be able to connect with the audience. Considering all the heavy subject matters that I had to watch today, “The Disappearance of My Mother” was an uplifting journey of one man and his desire to capture his only favorite model – his mother Benedetta.

Benedetta is not only a once-iconic fashion model, but an activist as well who would fight against the stereotypes of women and their beauty seen by the rest of the world. Now, when she is 75, her views have not changed, but her way of living life has. She decides to disappear, to find an island that nobody knows about, where she has no credit card, phone, or the nonsense of the world. Her son, Beniamino, was willing to let her go but before he does that, he decides to film her towards the journey she believes where she’ll find peace.

“The Disappearance of My Mother” offers archival footage of Benedetta and her unique beauty. We learn that she was the first Italian woman to ever appear on Vogue. She was well respected, but as per her own words, despite whatever she would do outside of her modeling career, she has always been considered an ex-model. The camera is like a tail which never stops following Benedetta while she continues educating her son, and the viewers as well, about what it means to stand for your values, be who you are and never abandon the image of liberation. The dialogues the mother and son have is all what we need to warm our hearts. They both adore each other but it’s the camera that enjoys what it captures the most.

While you will be watching this amazingly talented, truly gorgeous and extremely intelligent woman, you will realize that the world she lived back then has not changed since. But it was her who wanted to make it different. “I am interested in things that can’t be seen, not those that can be”. Throughout the journey, she never stops interacting with her son, but never stops insisting that the idea of creating an image of her is not her choice, but the choice of her son. But having that in mind, she allows him to document her even during the most uncomfortable moments to emphasize that no matter who we were or who we are, we are ordinary human beings.

Archival footage of Benedetta helps the audience to understand her more and why she always wanted to destroy the beauty of women the way man always sees. “I asked myself this question why do we have prototypes of beauty? Why are models at the bow of the ship and other women are squashed into the stern? Because men invent women, and this leads to Jessica Rabbit. And maybe it would be better if female bodies disappeared from men’s imagination,” she says to show the world that women appearing in fashion magazines are not brainless.

In conclusion, there’s a lot which can be taken away from this wonderfully shot and yet intimate portrait of one woman that wanted to connect beauty with talent and talent with appealing look. Her in-depth approach to life, modeling, or capturing beauty was like a form of art through which she would build bridges with those who would see women as an object of desire and show them why they are more than that. That’s why what she says next is what we must always remember as food for thought nobody except Benadette would ever be able to provide, “What’s the point of continuing to sell our bodies without any quality or talent? We are the priestess of the temple of commerce and we want to go on forever like this?” Just think about it, my dear reader, do we really want it?

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