If Dreams Were Lightning: Rural Healthcare Crisis – Director Ramin Bahrani

Rural hospitals around America are closing at alarming rates, leaving smaller communities without accessible health care. Since 2005 more than 190 rural community hospitals, mostly in the South, have closed in America. In the documentary If Dreams Were Lightning: Rural Healthcare Crisis Oscar-and Emmy-nominated director Ramin Bahrani visits Appalachia, where American communities are left with limited or no access to healthcare. Explore the rural healthcare crisis in the South through the eyes of those struggling in it and the dedicated doctors trying to reach them. If Dreams Were Lightning: Rural Healthcare Crisis  highlights the challenges faced by Rural American communities today intimately through the lens of individuals, families, and tight-knit towns, underscoring the urgent need for systemic change in the national healthcare, climate and mental health systems. The film capped off the 2023 Winter Season for INDEPENDENT LENS, the award-winning PBS documentary anthology series presented by ITVS. Director Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, 99 Homes) joins us for a conversation on the existential and personal inspiration for the film, traveling around Appalachia in the Health Wagon with Dr. Teresa Tyson and Dr. Paula Hill-Collins and how the heartbreaking stories told by the people living without access to affordable healthcare has impacted his life.


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If Dreams Were Lightning: Rural Healthcare Crisis will make its PBS broadcast premiere on March 25, 2024 (check local stations). The documentary was made available to stream earlier this year on the PBS Appand accessible viaPBS’s flagship YouTube Channel.

About the filmmaker: Academy Award nominee Ramin Bahrani is the Iranian- American writer, director, and producer of The White Tiger, for which he has earned Oscar, BAFTA, and WGA Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay. Based on the Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Aravind Adiga, the critically acclaimed Netflix feature film stars BAFTA nominee Adarsh Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, and is executive produced by Chopra and Ava DuVernay. Bahrani is the internationally renowned, award-winning writer/ director/producer of critically lauded films such as Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo, At Any Price, and 99 Homes. Early in his career, legendary film critic Roger Ebert proclaimed Bahrani as “the director of the decade” in 2010. For television, Bahrani’s HBO film, Fahrenheit 451, starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon, was nominated for five Emmys, including Best TV Movie, and earned a PGA award for best television film. For short films, Bahrani’s Plastic Bag (2009) (featuring the voice of Werner Herzog as a plastic bag), was the opening night film of the shorts section at Venice, and later screened at the New York Film Festival. It repeatedly has been called one of the greatest short films of all time. Currently, Bahrani is directing and executive producing the limited series “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” based on the acclaimed novel by best-selling author Walter Mosley, and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Dominique Fishback for Apple TV+. He is also producing Moratto’s new untitled film starring Rodrigo Santoro, and will direct, write and produce the feature adaptation of Adiga’s latest novel, Amnesty, for Netflix.

INDEPENDENT LENS is an Emmy® Award-winning PBS documentary series. With founding executive producer Lois Vossen, the series has been honored with 10 Academy Award nominations and features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by ITVS, INDEPENDENT LENS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Acton Family Giving, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts. Stream anytime on the PBS App. For more visit pbs.org/independentlens.