Mo Scarpelli is an Italian-American director and cinematographer of mostly-non-fiction cinema. Her films linger on the rupture of identity by exterior circumstances, and the cold violence inflicted on the individual by changing landscapes. 

Mo's films have been exhibited at the Berlinale, IDFA, Visions du Réel, Film Society of Lincoln Center, SXSW,  Olafur Eliasson's Studios in Berlin and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London,  among other festivals and venues.

Mo's latest film EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF, about a father and son embarking to make a film in the Venezuelan Amazon, received the Jury's Special Mention for Best International Film at the 51° Visions du Réel, as well as the Silver Biznaga Prize for Best Direction at Festival de Cine de Málaga in Spain. The film was released in cinemas in the UK, Netherlands and Colombia with support of the Torino Film Lab Audience Design Award, and is being released in North America by Grasshopper Film.

Mo’s debut feature documentary film ANBESSA screened at the 69° Berlinale, where it was nominated for the Crystal Bear and the Glashütte Documentary Prize. The film was broadcast on ARTE France, ZDF Germany in 2019 , released online with MUBI in 2020 and is available to stream worldwide.

Mo's first documentary FRAME BY FRAME, shot in Afghanistan, screened at SXSW Film Festival, Hot Docs, BFI London Film Festival, AFI DOCS and 120+ other festivals. The film garnered more than a dozen jury and audience awards and a Cinema Eye Honors nomination. It was acquired by TIME, Inc in 2016.

Mo is a selection of Berlinale Talents (2018), a two-time recipient of Catapult Film Fund support, and has received fellowships from the New America Foundation, CEC Artslink, the International Women in Media Foundation, and the Cortona Visual Narratives Scholarship, for which she made the video installation I SOGNI DI ROMA about dreams had by Romans during the first lockdown days of COVID-19 in early 2020.

Mo's short films include ROMA CITTÀ CHIUSA (The New Yorker 2020), EL HARA (NY Jewish Film Festival at Film Society at Lincoln Center 2017) and SURVIVING KENSINGTON (Vimeo Staff Pick 2016). Her cinematography, photography and writing have been published with outlets such as The New York TimesThe New Yorker,  the BBC, CNN’s Great Big StoryThe Wall Street Journal, and Africa Review.

Mo founded Rake Films in New York in 2012 to make her independent films. Before Rake, Mo directed and produced media for three years with the non-profit organization charity: water. Before that, she produced multimedia and reported for The Wall Street Journal

Mo holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She also holds a minor degree in business, though she learned more about that from working with her family's radio station since she was a kid.

Mo is commissioned for Directing and for Cinematography independently, and through Good Story Films.

Reach out to Mo here >




A SONG THAT SLAYS - Italy / Kenya - 100 minutes - in development

HAPPY GOATS - Italy - 100 minutes - in development


EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF - Venezuela / United Kingdom / Italy - 105 minutes - 2020

I SOGNI DI ROMA - Italy - 5-part audiovisual installation - 2020

ANBESSA - Ethiopia / Italy / USA - 86 minutes - 2019

EL HARA - Tunisia / France / USA -  16 minutes - 2018

FRAME BY FRAME - Afghanistan / USA  - 86 minutes - 2015

SURVIVING KENSINGTON - USA - 16 minutes - 2014


GROOMED - dir by Gwen van de Pas - Netherlands / USA - documentary feature - 2021

GRAMMA & GINGA - dir by Jennifer Steinman Sternin - USA - documentary short - 2021

THE LAST CRUISE - dir by Hannah Olson - USA - documentary mid-length - 2020 

FLAVIO-SHIRÓ - dir by Margaux Fitoussi & Adam Tanaka - Brazil / France - 21 min - 2019

Summer's Evening - dir by Eva Ellingsworth - Netherlands / USA - music video - 4 min - 2017

MEET A FIGHTER WITHOUT GLOVES - dir by Zack Canepari - USA - 9 min -  2017

SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT - dir by AJ Schnack - USA - 12 min - 2016

SHOPPER - dir by Zack Canepari - USA - 7 min - 2016

MAi: Life is Not Honey - dir by Gelila Bekele - Ethiopia, USA - 22 min - 2015


51° Visions du Réel - Special Mention for Best International Film
IDFA 2020 - Best of Festivals Selection
24° Málaga Film Festival - Silver Biznaga Prize for Best Direction
17° Festival de Cine Venezolano - Best Cinematography Award, Best Camera Award
37° Festival de Cine de Bogotá - Best Documentary on Art
2020 Torino Film Lab Audience Design Award
2020 Nomination by Visions du Réel for the Doc Alliance Selection Award
60° Krakow Film Festival - International Film Competition
42° Cairo International Film Festival 
Dokufest Kosovo - International Film Competition
Transcinema Festival Internacional de Cine, Peru - TransAndes Film Competition
42° Durban International Film Festival - International Documentary Feature Competition
29° Festival Biarritz Amérique Latine
Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) London
— among other festivals and venues, see more here >


69° Berlinale International Film Festival - Nominated for the Glashütte Documentary Prize & the Crystal Bear (Generations K+ Competition)
IDFA 2019 - Kids & Docs Competition
22° Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Hot Docs Canadian Intl. Film Festival
Human Rights Watch Film Festival London
40° Durban Intl Film Festival - Special Mention for Best Documentary Feature
MountainFilm Telluride - Best Director & Runner-Up for Best Documentary Feature
21° Olympia Intl Film Festival for Children - ECFA Award for Best Documentary
MiradasDoc - El Mirador Prize for Best International Film
Sola Luna Documentary Festival - Best Cinematography Award
RiverRun Intl Film Festival - Honorary Mention for Best Documentary
Rooftop Films NYC 
60° Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias (FICCI) - Opening Night Film
Addis International Film Festival - Opening Night Film
Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels de Biarritz (FIPADOC)
C40 World Mayor’s Summit on Development
Olafur Eliasson Studios
 — among additional festivals and venues, see more here >

Cinema Eye Honors Award Nominee for Spotlight Award, 2016
Grearson Documentary Prize Nominee, BFI London Film Festival, 2015
Best Documentary Film, Festival de Cine y Derechos Humanos de Barcelona, 2016
Lena Sharpe Persistence of Vision Award, Seattle International Film Festival, 2015
Reel Women Direct Prize,Cleveland International Film Festival, 2015
Audience Choice Award, Movies That Matter Film Festival - Netherlands, 2015
Best Documentary Feature, Camden Intl Film Festival, 2015
Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature, Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, 2015
Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, New Hampshire Film Festival, 2015
Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature, Nashville Film Festival, 2015
Silver Heart Award, Dallas Intl Film Festival, 2015
Audience Award for Best Documentary, Ashland Independent Film Festival, 2015
Spirit Award and Audience Award for Best Documentary, Brooklyn Film Festival, 2015
Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature, Sidewalk Film Festival
Best Documentary Feature, Port Townsend Film Festival, 2015
Best Feature Documentary, Caymen Film Festival, 2015
Best Documentary Feature, Best Directorial Debut, Washington West Film Festival, 2015
Best Documentary Jury Prize, San Francisco Independent Film Festival, 2015
Audience Choice Award, Moab Intl Film Fesitval, 2015
Best Feature Documentary, Weyauwega Intl Film Festival, 2015
— among additional festivals and venues, see more here >


2021. Less is More film development workshop (Creative Media Europe)
2021. CEC Artslink Back Apartment Residency - St. Petersburg, Russia
2020. Torino Film Lab Audience Design Fund - Italy
2020. Cortona on the Move Visual Narratives Scholarship - Italy
2017-2018. New America Foundation National Fellowship - USA
2017-2018. International Women’s Media Foundation Fellowship 
2018. Catapult Film Fund Momentum Grant - USA
2016. Catapult Film Fund Development Grant - USA
2014. Speranza Female Filmmaker Award, USA
2014. Port Townsend Film Fellowship - USA


2021. Festival Internacional de Cine y Memoria Común de Nador, Morocco - International Documentary Features Jury
2021.  Centro Sperimentali Di Foto - Rome, Italy - Documentary Cinematography Masterclass
2021. Faito Documentary Film Festival, Italy - Documentary Now!  talk on documentary direction
2021. Golden Linden Film Festival, Armenia - International Feature Films Jury
2020. IDFA Industry Talk on making EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF
2020. Doc NYC Pro+ Days, New York - Cinematography Masterclass 
2017. Murray Center for Documentary, University of Missouri-Colombia - Documentary Masterclass 
2016. Arte Cinema Film Festival, Napoli - case study on directing FRAME BY FRAME
2016. University of California-Berkley, USA - Documentary Masterclass
2016. Pacific Northwest College of Art - Documentary Cinematography Masterclass
2015. Randolph College, USA - Documentary Masterclass
2015. AFI DOCS, USA - Documentary Direction Panel


2021. Less is More film development workshop (Creative Media Europe)
2020. Torino Film Lab Audience Design Workshop
2020. Novos Cinema #LAB film development workshop (Galicia, Spain)
2018. Berlinale Talents 
2017. True/False Film Festival + Catapult Rough Cut Retreat 
2017. IDFAcademy Summer School
2012. Kalish Photography Workshop
2009. University of Missouri-Columbia - Bachelor’s of Journalism, Minor in Business


'There is no film safe from some version of exploitation' - Mo Scarpelli on El Father Plays Himself'- Filmmaker Magazine
'El Father Plays Himself' is a tantalizing house of mirrors... - The Hollywood Reporter
'El Father Plays Himself' examines the dynamic between father and son - Sight & Sound
'El Father Plays Himself' - a rich meta-documentary - Little White Lies
'El Father Plays Himself' Trailer & Interview with the Director- Variety
Truth versus progress: Mo Scarpelli on Anbessa, her creative portrait of a creative Ethiopian - Sight & Sound
Fiction & Reality Clash for 'El Father' - interview with the director - Sounds & Colours
'El Father Plays Himself' ... 'exquisite'  - Toist
The Making of Father and Son - Dispatch Feminist Magazine
Mo Scarpelli: 'We film dreams in the way of documentary'Página12 
'El Father Plays Himself' sincerely one of the best films of 2020 CritereonCast 
'El Father' is a fantastic effortless stand-alone making of movie - de Volkskrant
Ficción y realidad se mezclan en la venezolana 'El Father Plays Himself'- EscribiendoCine
'El Father' a fascinating documentary - Trouw NL
'El Father' is shocking and moving - Filmkrant
'El Father Plays Himself,' c'eravamo tanto filmati. Intervista a Mo Scarpelli: io, tra padre e figlio - Infoogi Italy
Anbessa: heart-rending tale of a boy living on the edge - The Guardian 
‘Anbessa’ is a Beautiful Work of Sensory Ethnography - The Film Stage
Fairytales from the In-Between - Dispatch Feminist Magazine 
Ethiopian life through the eyes of a precocious and imaginative boy in ‘Anbessa’ - Little Village
 El Father Plays Himself: A Raw & Vulnerable Documentary Not to be Missed - Film Inquiry
 DOC NYC Directors: Meet Mo Scarpelli, Anbessa - Women & Hollywood
Anbessa: visions of the past and future - Página12 
'Anbessa' : gorgeous, visually arresting - Film Threat
'El Father' is a sort of electrocardiogram of the relationship between life and fiction - Duels.it
'Anbessa' : Hope and despair intermingle in a profoundly cinematic mix - Hammer to Nail
New film takes look at urban development in Ethiopia - CGTN Africa
Berlinale 2019: ‘Anbessa’ Critiques a Country through the Eyes of a Child - Goombastomp
The 50 Most Anticipated American Films of 2019 - Filmmaker Magazine
'Frame by Frame' : exquisite, emotionally searing - The Hollywood Reporter
'Frame by Frame' : sharp, soulful - Variety
Videos for Good: Mo Scarpelli on stories that liberate - Vimeo blog
'If you're not trusting yourself...' Mo Scarpelli on She Does podcast / Filmmaker Magazine
Mo Scarpelli and Anbessa (interview) - Convenzionali
Interview with Mo Scarpelli, last works, “Anbessa”and relationships between film and music - Beatz of All Nations
SIMA Filmmaker Interview with Mo Scarpelli - SIMA
‘Anbessa’ Director Mo Scarpelli On The Impact Of Modernisation In Ethiopia - Close-Up Culture
Director Mo Scarpelli on the Making of Her New Documentary - Italian Cinema Today
Anbessa: A Beautiful Story of a Child's Escape into Imagination as a Coping Mechanism for Displacement - OkayAfrica


The GAP + Red Campaign
Isaac Mizrahi
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The END Fund
The Luminos Fund
The Izumi Foundation
Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
Lieber Institute for Brain Development

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