Mo Scarpelli is an Italian American director and cinematographer of non-fiction cinema. Her work seeks to capture the innate poetry of human life, allowing observation to poke holes in prevailing myths of the world and air the complexities of human identity.

Mo’s latest film ANBESSA premiered at the 69th Berlinale, where it was nominated for the Crystal Bear and the Glashütte Documentary Prize. "A masterful work of sensory ethnography," (FilmStage) the film explores a boy coming of age as he conjures the strength of a lion (anbessa) to fight back against forces threatening him and his mother. ANBESSA went on to screen at IDFA, Durban Intl Film Festival (Special Mention for Best Documentary), Hot Docs, DOC NYC, FIPADOC, DocPoint Helsinki and more. The film broadcast on ARTE France and ZDF Germany in 2019.

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, Camden International Film Festival (Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary), and 120+ others. The film has garnered more than a dozen jury and audience awards, as well as a Cinema Eye Honors nomination.

Mo's latest film, set in Venezuela, explores the irreparable estrangement of migration to the family, and the ways cinema aids and fails us in representation of ourselves and those we love. The film is in post-production.

Mo is a Berlinale Talent, a two-time recipient of Catapult Film Fund support, and has received fellowships from the New America Foundation and the International Women in Media Foundation. She has been awarded Best Director at MountainFilm Telluride, the Speranza Foundation Female Filmmaker Award, the Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision and the Reel Women Direct Prize (Cleveland Intl Film Festival).

Mo’s short films including EL HARA (NY Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center 2017) and SURVIVING KENSINGTON (Vimeo Staff Pick 2017) have screened at international festivals, theatrically in screening series, and at the United Nations and World Health Organization.

Her cinematography, photography and writing have been published with The New Yorker, The New York Times, the BBC, CNN’s Great Big Story, The Wall Street Journal, and Africa Review.

Mo founded Rake Films in 2012. Before Rake, she led media production for non-profit organization charity: water. Before that, she produced multimedia stories and reported for The Wall Street Journal. She holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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


Email: mo [at] rakefilms [dot] com
Twitter: @moscarpelli



ALDO - Italy - documentary
in development

NGWAN - Kenya, Italy, USA - documentary hybrid
in development

EL FATHER PLAYS HIMSELF - Venezuela / United Kingdom / Italy - documentary - 110 minutes
in post production

ANBESSA - Ethiopia / Italy / USA - documentary feature - 86 minutes - 2019
69th Berlinale Intl Film Festival - Crystal Bear nominee, Glashütte Documentary Prize nominee; IDFA Kids & Docs Competition nominee; Human Rights Watch Film Festival London official selection; Hot Docs official selection; Durban Intl Film Festival - honorary mention for best documentary; exhibition at Olafur Eliasson studios in Berlin; TV broadcast with ARTE + ZDF.

FRAME BY FRAME - Afghanistan / USA - documentary - 86 minutes - 2015
SXSW Film Festival official selection; BFI London Film Festival - Grearson Documentary prize nominee; AFI DOCS official selection; Hot Docs - Top 10 Favourite Films; Camden Intl Film Festival - Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary; 15+ Jury and Audience Awards; exhibitions at 40+ universities and independent screening series in US, Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa; USA theatrical run in NY and LA; distribution by TIME, Inc.

EL HARA - Tunisia / France / USA - documentary - 16 minutes - 2018
Exhibition at Biblioteca Nacional de Tunísia; NY Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center NY official selection; Toronto Jewish Film Festival official selection; online premiere with The Screening Room at Society for Cultural Anthropology.

SURVIVING KENSINGTON - USA - documentary - 16 minutes - 2014
Exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Savery Gallery; screenings at Drexel University, Bluecadet Philadelphia, Filmadelphia at the Roxy screening series; Vimeo Staff Pick online.

STILL, LIVES - Ethiopia / India / Afghanistan / USA / Venezuela / Belgium - ongoing microfilm series

GOOD KID - Ethiopia - documentary - 13 min - 2017


GROOMED - dir by Gwen van de Pas - Netherlands / USA - documentary feature
in post production

GRAMMA & GINGA (working title) - dir by Jennifer Steinman Sternin - USA - documentary short
in post production

Flavió-Shíro - dir by Margaux Fitoussi & Adam Tanaka - Brazil / France - documentary - 20 min - 2019

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

Meet a Fighter Without Gloves - dir by Zack Canepari - USA - 2017
CNN's Great Big Story online release

SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT - dir by AJ Schnack - USA - 2016
Sundance Film Festival; Field of Vision online release

Shopper - dir by Zack Canepari - USA - 2016
New Yorker Magazine online release


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


Berlinale Talents, 2018
Catapult Film Fund recipient 2016, 2018
New America Foundation National Fellowship 2017-2018
International Women’s Media Foundation Fellowship 2017-2018
Speranza Foundation Female Filmmaker Award, 2014
Port Townsend Film Fellow, 2014


69th Berlinale Glashütte Documentary Prize Nominee
69th Berlinale Crystal Bear Nominee
Best Director, MountainFilm Telluride, 2019
Special Mention for Best Documentary Feature, Durban Intl Film Festival, 2019
Best Documentary Feature, Olympia Intl Film Festival for Children & Young People, 2019


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


Berlinale Talents, 2018
True/False Film Festival + Catapult Rough Cut Retreat, 2017
IDFAcademy Film Development Workshop, 2017
Kalish Photo Editing Workshop, 2012

University of Missouri-Columbia - Bachelor’s of Journalism, 2009

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