Impossible Town


When her father dies unexpectedly, Dr. Ayne Amjad is thrust to the helm of a decades-long struggle to aid a southern West Virginia town beset by cancer-causing chemicals. Haunted by her late father’s mandate to “help others” at all costs, Ayne is caught between her dream of raising a family and an audacious but all-consuming plan to relocate the town and bring closure to her father’s work.

IMPOSSIBLE TOWN is a story of personal ambitions in conflict with deep familial obligations set against the backdrop of loss, grief, and environmental injustice in rural Appalachia.


After observing exceptionally abnormal rates of cancer in his Minden patients in the mid 1980s, Pakistani-born oncologist Dr. Hassan Amjad became the southern West Virginian town’s greatest champion, advocating fiercely for recognition of the persistent risk to human health caused by carcinogenic PCBs left from the mining industry. Some thirty-five years and three EPA clean-up attempts later, Minden remains largely ignored even as its population has dwindled from over 1200 to just under 250.

When Hassan passes from a massive heart attack at the age of 70, his unsuspecting daughter Ayne, also a physician, inherits his decades-long advocacy efforts overnight. Grief-stricken but spurred by her father’s mandate to “help others” at all costs, Ayne hatches an ambitious plan to relocate the entire town to a 97-acre plot of land purchased by her late father as a retirement site. As she mobilizes allies in Minden and beyond, she is surprised to discover that her biggest challenge is an attachment to home that makes the town’s most endangered residents reluctant to leave.

When a global pandemic unexpectedly thrusts Ayne into a powerful state government position, she sees an opportunity to move past her stalled relocation efforts and expand her locus of impact well beyond Minden. Ironically, the more Ayne pours herself into this new role, the more distance she creates from her closest allies – the Minden activists that have been involved since her father’s work began some four decades earlier. What’s more, her new work requires that she abandon her private practice and her hopes for a family of her own, subsuming her identity almost completely.

As pressures mount on all sides – the creeping sickness of Minden’s aging residents, the growing sense of futility around achieving meaningful change in the cancer-stricken town, and the never ending political stresses associated with working at the state level – Ayne enlists the help of her personal lawyer to build a class-action lawsuit against the EPA in a last-ditch effort to help. Minden’s activist residents bristle at the new attorney’s aggressive approach, and this partnership implodes in dramatic fashion when small town gossip leads to accusations of fraud.

Left with few options, Ayne feels stuck between a deeply ingrained mandate to “help others” that is the legacy of her late father and the increasing realization that she is sacrificing her own life in an attempt to do so. With the cathartic acknowledgment that her father’s death continues to haunt her, she must choose between her sense of duty and her own happiness.

IMPOSSIBLE TOWN shows us tireless social and environmental struggle through the eyes of a cast of characters that complicate common rural Appalachian stereotypes. Dr. Ayne Amjad alone is a study in contrasts: a devout Republican with a strong activist bent, a daughter of immigrants who is a pillar of her largely white community, and a wealthy physician-turned-public-servant who spends her time advocating for her disenfranchised and low-income neighbors. With Ayne and the rest of our cast, nothing is as it seems.

In addition to adding to the breadth of stories about how environmental catastrophes disproportionately affect the poor, IMPOSSIBLE TOWN has much to say about our complex relationships with home – the connections we form with the places we’re from, and the difficulty we have in letting go of those places, even when they’re killing us. Through the ambitions of Ayne and other Minden activists, the film explores the persistent modern American fantasy that complex issues are best solved through singular heroes and miracle solutions rather than the decidedly grittier work of slow and patient social, political, and legal exercises.

Most poignantly, IMPOSSIBLE TOWN is an ode to the way we commune with our parents long after they’ve left this plane, their aspirations and legacies lighting our paths to unanticipated destinations, their absence leaving a painful void in our lives that never fully heals.

  • Scott Faris
    Scott is IMPOSSIBLE TOWN’S co-director, director of photography, and editor. He is the co-founder of Universe Creative, a video production company focused on creating documentaries and short content for conscientious brands. Scott has roots in film, education, and advertising. He grew up in West Virginia and graduated with a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. After teaching 5th grade on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, he joined Teach For America’s award-winning marketing team as a video producer. He continued to pursue the intersection of education and video storytelling at Redbird, a marketing firm in Los Angeles. Scott’s work has been recognized by the Webbys, EPPY, CMA, and film festivals across the country.
  • Meg Griffiths
    Meg is IMPOSSIBLE TOWN’S co-director and producer. She is the co-founder of Universe Creative, a video production company focused on creating documentaries and short content for conscientious brands. Meg began her career as the Houston Chronicle’s first video journalist, and then she held a leadership role at Teach For America where she built the nonprofit’s first video studio. Later, Meg oversaw content development at Redbird, a Los Angeles-based creative agency, as their Vice President of Strategy. Meg’s work has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and she’s also been awarded EPPY, NPPA, CMA, and various film festival accolades. She holds a MA in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Brandon Hill
    Brandon is IMPOSSIBLE TOWN’S executive producer and a partner at Radley Studios, where he oversees development, production, and distribution of the company’s television projects. Prior to joining Radley Hill was Co-EP of critically acclaimed dramedy "Easy Money" for the CW network. Before that, Brandon was an executive at Media Rights Capital where he helped launch their inaugural TV slate, including "Life And Times of Tim" for HBO, "In Harm's Way" for the CW, and format acquisition for Netflix's "House of Cards". He also produced two independent features for Sony Pictures, and was a writer on the ABC/Dreamworks drama "Line of Fire.” He started his career working for George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's Section Eight.
  • Alia Mansoori
    Consulting producer Alia Mansoori was born, bred and still growing in New York City. After studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, Alia wrote for numerous national and international newspapers and magazines. Later, Alia became a content strategist, telling the story of luxury upstarts and well-known brands spanning industries from travel to fashion to food. After nearly a decade of working for luxury brands, she has returned to her background as a reporter to tell meaningful stories through film.
  • Daniel Roman
    Dan Roman is IMPOSSIBLE TOWN's editor. Dan has extensive experience in film production and marketing, and he has made his mark working for clients like Amazon Music, PayPal, Degree and others. He is a multiple CLIO and Webby award winning editor, and he just released his first feature-length documentary “For Love and Country” on Prime Video.
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Social justice, Environment
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    July 18, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    730,098 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    RED Cinema
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • DOC NYC Industry Roundtables
    New York City
    United States
    November 11, 2022
  • Ji.hlava International Documentary Festival Pitch
    Czech Republic
    October 15, 2021
  • The American Documentary and Animation Film Festival Pitch
    Palm Springs, CA
    United States
    February 2, 2021
Director Biography - Scott Faris, Meg Griffiths

Meg Griffiths and Scott Faris are directors and producers. With backgrounds in journalism and education, the two worked together first at Teach For America — Meg built the nonprofit’s first video studio and Scott produced award-winning content — and then at a Los Angeles-based creative agency. There, they led content strategy and video production for the agency’s social impact brands.

In 2017, Meg and Scott co-founded Universe Creative, a documentary production company. The team regularly collaborates with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, Amazon Studios, and other socially conscious organizations. The team's work has been supported by the International Documentary Association, Mountainfilm, the Redford Center, and they have been recognized by Vimeo Staff Picks, the Webbys, the Tellys, and film festivals across the country.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement


Over the last decade, co-directors Meg Griffiths and Scott Faris have been creating documentary content together for nonprofits, foundations, and socially conscious brands. Scott grew up in West Virginia, where the majority of his family resides to this day, and has long wrestled with the litany of sensational, exploitative, and otherwise distorted depictions of his home state. In the wake of the 2016 presidential elections and the flurry of media attention paid to so-called conservative states like West Virginia, Meg and Scott resolved to provide a local’s perspective on this enigmatic state.

Captured over the course of four years of principal photography, IMPOSSIBLE TOWN leans heavily on the perspectives of its characters, focusing on verité scenes that let viewers in on small, unguarded moments with Ayne, her colleagues, and the Minden residents that are inspired by her work. From vulnerable moments in chemotherapy to conversations with the Governor, the filmmakers had unparalleled access to subjects at every level of government. What results is a portrait of rural Appalachia told not from the perspective of pundits and academics, but with the voices of those who shape the region’s narrative with their lives.

IMPOSSIBLE TOWN was shot with the RED Gemini for a 4K 2:1 finish that is compatible with the requirements of theatrical distribution and streaming platforms.


Following the election of Donald Trump, conservative strongholds like Appalachia became the object of intense national scrutiny: books like Hillbilly Elegy and White Trash exploded onto the scene as folks who’d previously barely given rural American communities much thought were suddenly brimming with explanations for their supposed ignorance.

When Scott and Meg met Dr. Ayne Amjad and visited Minden, West Virginia for the first time, they knew almost immediately they’d found an opportunity to complicate the national coverage they’d grown tired of reading – to tell a story about the redemptive elements of the state that rarely get the press they deserve.

IMPOSSIBLE TOWN’S filmmakers are uniquely positioned to tell this story because it’s important that West Virginia storytellers play a key role in shaping the state’s image through media. Scott and Meg have the trust of those who populate this story – doctors, lawyers, activists, retirees, and the Governor himself – and have earned unparalleled access to living rooms, hospital rooms, statehouses, and military command centers in an effort to challenge the assumptions that have defined the state for decades.


Production of IMPOSSIBLE TOWN took place over the course of four years (2019 - 2022) throughout West Virginia, and the film is currently in post-production with an estimated release date of 2023. Co-directors Meg Griffiths and Scott Faris will produce the documentary in partnership with Radley Studios. The film has received funding from the International Documentary Association, the Redford Center, Mountainfilm, the George and Fay Young Foundation, and the Elizabeth Dew Trust in the amount of $181,000, and the total budget for the film is $730,098.