Untitled Rural Healthcare Documentary

Already living in a medical desert, Appalachian patients and providers continue struggling and supporting each other – and then a once-in-a-century pandemic hits.

Untitled Ramin Bahrani_Rural Healthcare Documentary
Funding Initiative
Diversity Development Fund
Series and Special Projects

Ramin Bahrani

RAMIN BAHRANI was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and is an Emmy-nominated writer, director and producer. In 2010 legendary film critic Roger Ebert proclaimed Bahrani as “the director of the decade.” Bahrani has won numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a “Someone to Watch” Independent Spirit Award. His feature Show more films, Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo, At Any Price, and 99 Homes have won numerous awards around the world, including the FIPRESCI Prize in London (Man Push Cart) FIPRESCI Prize in Venice (Goodbye Solo), the Grand Prize in Deauville (99 Homes) and a Golden Globe nomination for Michael Shannon (99 Homes). Bahrani’s television film, Fahrenheit 451, for HBO, starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon was nominated for 5 Emmys, including Best TV Movie. His most recent documentary, Blood Kin, premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival where he also served as President of the Debut Film Jury. His latest film is an adaptation of the Man Booker Prize winning novel, The White Tiger, for Netflix. It will be released in late 2020. Show less

Other ITVS Films
Goodbye Solo
Plastic Bag

Jason Orans

Gigantic Pictures is the New York-based independent production company run by Brian Devine, Jason Orans, and Jennifer Small. In addition to Cosmopolitan, Gigantic Pictures produced The Suitor for PBS, a narrative film based on a story by the Dominican American author Julia Alvarez. Additional productions include an adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s The First Seven Years Show more starring Israel Horovitz and Carol Kane, which was broadcast nationally on PBS; The Third Date, starring Sandra Bernhard, Xander Berkeley, and Sarah Clark, which premiered at the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival and played the 2003 London Film Festival; Drena De Niro’s documentary Girls and Dolls, which premiered on WNET; and Israel Horovitz’s autobiographical documentary about 9/11, Three Weeks After Paradise, which premiered on Bravo. Gigantic is currently in post-production on Satellite, a feature film by the writer/director Jeff Winner (You Are Here). Show less


Pamela Ryan

Pamela Ryan produces for Gigantic Pictures, a New York City-based feature film, documentary and television production company founded by producers Brian Devine and Jason Orans. Films in current and recent release include Boaz Yakin's thriller Boarding School (Momentum), Ramin Bahrani's documentary Blood Kin (Venice Film Festival Show more 2018), and the documentaries Frank Serpico (IFC/Sundance Selects) and Night School (Oscilloscope/PBS), currently in development as a scripted series with Leah Remini. Prior films include the music doc Heartworn Highways Revisited (FilmRise), SXSW Grand Prize Winner and Emmy Nominee The Great Invisible (PBS, Radius-TWC), 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (Sundance Documentary Competition), Independent Spirit and Gotham Award nominee Night Catches Us (Magnolia) starring Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington; Dare (Sundance U.S. Narrative Competition) starring Emmy Rossum and Rooney Mara; and Ramin Bahrani's Independent Spirit nominated Goodbye Solo (Venice FIPRESCI Prize, Roadside Attractions) and Plastic Bag (Venice and Telluride Film Festivals). Show less

Other ITVS Films
Great Invisible

Summer Shelton

We fund untold stories for public media.

Learn more about funding opportunities with ITVS.

The Film

In rural communities that span from Western North Carolina to Southwest Virginia to Eastern Tennessee, there is a vast medical desert. In the decade between 2009 and 2019, hundreds of rural hospitals were shuttered; of the remaining facilities, 40% are considered to be at “immediate” or “high risk” of closing. In a region where residents already live far from healthcare, such closures leave thousands stranded without accessible medical care.

But medical providers and patients in these communities are resilient. The providers – predominantly women – include Drs. Teresa Tyson and Paula Hill-Collins, energetic “BFFs” who traverse the mountains of Appalachia, advocating for the underserved and providing medical care from their bus, the “Health Wagon”; Sister Mariana Koonce MD, a nun, former sailor, and current big rig driver of her own mobile healthcare unit, attending to physical as well as spiritual well-being; and Dr. Lovie Stallworth, once a single mother on food stamps, now compelled to care for others in that position, whose preventative care allows her patients to avoid devastating trips to the ER.

These tenacious and dedicated doctors care for patients like Linda and Teresa, a mother and daughter whose shared laughter is unstoppable, even when they have to cross state lines to address Linda’s chronic cough. They represent four generations of uninsured women. Teresa fears her granddaughter will grow up “just as sick and in need as we are”; she is determined to work as many jobs as required to provide for her family. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

For these communities, a lack of ventilators, hospital beds, and PPE was not the result of pandemic; it was already the norm. Appalachia’s hurdles continue as people seek the vaccine, often without access to the internet. What’s more, the mobile clinics and local, independent pharmacies that play a critical role in rural healthcare have been slow to receive the vaccine. Frustrated, Dr. Teresa of the Health Wagon goes on television to pressure the Virginia state government into providing doses to its rural counties. Despite it all, patients and providers continue struggling and supporting each other – only now it is amidst a once-in-a-century pandemic.