Mo Scarpelli is an Italian-American director and cinematographer of mostly-non-fiction cinema. Her work is centered around watching people for long periods of time. Her films tend to 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, Visions du Réel, Film Society of Lincoln Center, IDFA, BFI London Film Festival, Olafur Eliasson Studios in Berlin, SXSW, Hot Docs, 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, premiered at the 51° Visions du Réel where it was awarded the Jury's Special Mention for Best International Film. The film was acquired by Grasshopper Film in the USA, and recently received the Torino Film Lab Audience Design Fund for distribution in the Netherlands, UK, and Latin America in 2021.

Mo’s debut solo-directed film ANBESSA screened at the 69° Berlinale, where it was nominated for the Crystal Bear and the Glashütte Documentary Prize. "A masterful work of sensory ethnography," (FilmStage) the film is a documentary about a boy who turns into a lion to face the adult world. The film was broadcast on ARTE France and ZDF Germany in 2019 , released online with MUBI in 2020 and is available to stream worldwide.

Mo's first feature-length 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, the International Women in Media Foundation, and the Cortona Visual Narratives Scholarship.

Her 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 YorkerThe New York Times, the BBC, CNN’s Great Big StoryThe Wall Street Journal, and Africa Review.

Mo founded Rake Films in New York in 2012. Before Rake, she directed and produced media for three years with the non-profit organization charity: water. And 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.

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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, 2020
Festival de Málaga - Silver Biznaga Prize for Best Direction, 2021
Perso Film Festival - Special Mention for Perso Award, 2020
Festival de Cine de Bogotá (Bogocine37) - Mejor Documental de Arte, 2020
Torino Film Lab Audience Design Fund, 2020
Nomination for Doc Alliance Award, 2020

69° Berlinale - Glashütte Documentary Prize Nominee, 2019
69° Berlinale - Crystal Bear Nominee, 2019
Special Mention for Best Documentary Feature, 40° Durban Intl Film Festival, 2019
Best Cinematography, Social Impact Media Awards (SIMA), 2020
Best Cinematography, Sola Luna Documentary Festival, 2020
El Mirador Prize for Best International Film, MiradasDoc, 2020
Best Director & Runner-Up for Best Documentary Feature, MountainFilm Telluride, 2019
ECFA Award for Best Documentary Feature, Olympia Intl Film Festival for Children & Young People, 2019
Honorary Mention for Best Documentary, RiverRun Intl Film Festival, 2020
Fabrique du Cinéma Best International Documentary Nominee, 2020

Cinema Eye Honors Award Nominee for Spotlight Award, 2016
BFI London Film Festival Grearson Documentary Prize Nominee, 2015
Best Documentary Film, Festival de Cine y Derechos Humanos de Barcelona, 2016
Top 10 Audience Favourites, Hot Docs Intl Film Festival, 2015
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


2021. Less is More film development workshop (Creative Media Europe)
2020. Torino Film Lab Audience Design Fund
2020. Cortona on the Move Visual Narratives Scholarship
2017-2018. New America Foundation National Fellowship 
2017-2018. International Women’s Media Foundation Fellowship 
2018. Catapult Film Fund Momentum Grant
22016. Catapult Film Fund Development Grant
2014. Port Townsend Film Fellowship 


2021. Golden Linden Film Festival  - International Feature Films Jury
2020. IDFA Industry Talk on making EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF
2020. Doc NYC Pro+ Days - Cinematography Masterclass  / case study on making EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF
2017. Cinema Eye Honors Awards - Kitchen Sink member
2016. Arte Cinema case study on directing FRAME BY FRAME
2015. AFI DOCS panel on directing documentary


2021. Less is More film development workshop (Creative Media Europe)
2020. Torino Film Lab Audience Design orkshop
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


'El Father Plays Himself' is a tantalizing house of mirrors... - The Hollywood Reporter
'El Father Plays Himself Lands at Grasshopper Film...' - Variety
'El Father Plays Himself' Trailer Bows for Visions Du Réel Premiere - Variety
Truth versus progress: Mo Scarpelli on Anbessa, her creative portrait of a creative Ethiopian - Sight & Sound
'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 review - Screen International 
'El Father Plays Himself' sincerely one of the best films of 2020 CritereonCast 
'El Father' is a fantastic effortless stand-alone making of movie full of drunken rage - 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 
DOC NYC Review: ‘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
Navigating Chaos, the Father and the Making-Of - Frameland
'El Father Plays Himself' - a fascinating study of the extent to which filmic truth can be pushed. - UK Film Review
'El Father' is a sort of electrocardiogram of the relationship between life and fiction -
'Anbessa' : Hope and despair intermingle in a profoundly cinematic mix - Hammer to Nail
New film takes look at urban development in Ethiopia - CGTN Africa
Berlin Film Festival announces first Generation titles for 2019 - Screen International
Berlinale 2019: ‘Anbessa’ Critiques a Country through the Eyes of a Child - Goombastomp
The 50 Most Anticipated American Films of 2019 - Filmmaker Magazine
Review: ‘Frame by Frame’ Looks at Four Intrepid Afghan Photojournalists - The New York Times
Afghanistan Documentary ‘Frame by Frame’ Is Catching Attention - IndieWire
'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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