The Oscar-nominated director Matthew Heineman’s documentary The First Wave, a surface-level look at a New York hospital during the city’s battle with the initial crisis of COVID-19 from March to June 2020, is approaching release as the pandemic continues to impact people around the world. The film will be distributed theatrically by NEON later this year and has now been acquired by National Geographic Documentary Films.
Heineman, a two-time DGA award winner, and Primetime Emmy recipient, uses his distinctive approach of persona cinema vérité to record those devastating first four months by focusing on a group of courageous healthcare staff at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens.
“The First Wave spotlights the everyday heroes at the epicenter of COVID-19 as they come together to fight one of the greatest threats the world has ever encountered,” National Geographic noted. “With poignancy and intimacy, the film unflinchingly bears witness to the unseen reality of a hospital overwhelmed by COVID—the emotional and psychological toll on medical professionals, patients fighting for their lives, and their families hoping for them to come home.”
The documentary will also take a further look into the unjust toll that COVID-19 has overwhelmingly affected people of color and the socially vulnerable.
“I feel deeply honored that I had the opportunity to document — through our subjects over four terrifying months — the impact of this pandemic. It has forced us to question everything, the fragility of our lives, and the way we live,” Heineman said. “The film explores every aspect of the human condition—fear and courage, death and birth, and the inescapable weight of trauma, both the kind that is deeply held and also newly experienced.”
Check out the teaser trailer below for the documentary The First Wave.