2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MY MOTHER

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Beniamino Barrese

Beniamino Barrese films his mother as she plans to leave the modern world behind.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

Benedetta Barzini was a revered Italian model who shattered stereotypes by becoming a journalist and professor and gained notoriety by publicly critiquing the fashion industry’s deep-seated misogyny. But now, in her 70s, Barzini’s distaste for the world of images has deepened into an existential crisis. Quietly and without warning, she packs her belongings and tells her son Beniamino she intends to disappear from the material world forever. Alarmed, Beniamino devises a plan he hopes will allow her to confront – instead of flee – the very thing she most distrusts: the camera. By capturing her on film, he intends to salvage his mother’s true essence and preserve her narrative.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MY MOTHER is a radical documentary born out of a series of confrontations between a mother eager to set herself free and a son desperate to use the medium of film to keep her close. What begins as a deeply personal fight for control transforms into a profoundly collaborative project, one that attempts to rectify decades of harm inflicted by the camera’s oppressive gaze.

Some Background:

  • Beniamino Barrese

    Barrese makes his feature directorial debut following serving as a cinematographer for primarily short films.


  • Filippo Macelloni

    This is the first Sundance credit for the Rome-based Nanof Films co-founder.

Executive Producers:

  • RYOT’s Hayley Pappas and Matt Ippolito
    Past Sundance docs:


    Pappas is the Emmy Award-winning head of RYOT Films, while Ippolito is its COO. They both also executive produced the 2019 Sundance fiction AR experience A JESTER’S TALE and co-produced the Sundance fiction VR experience DINNER PARTY (2018).

  • Bryn Mooser
    Past Sundance docs:


    The Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning Mooser co-founded RYOT and recently left his position as CEO. He also executive produced A JESTER’S TALE and DINNER PARTY.

  • Giovanni Storti

    Storti is a famed Italian comedic writer/director/actor, part of the trio Aldo, Giovanni, and Giacomo.

  • Lorenzo Garzella

    Garzella is co-founder of Nanof Films with Macelloni.


  • Valentina Cicogna

    This the first Sundance credit for the Milan-based editor. Other documentaries she has cut have screened at IDFA, Hot Docs, and Cinéma du Réel.

Why You Should Watch:
Barrese’s unusual project is ultimately a very personal love letter to his mother. Their opposing stances – her desire to reject images, his embrace of them – result in a frisson of creativity unusual for nonfiction portraiture.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist Profile

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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