National Geographic Acquires COVID-19 Documentary ‘The First Wave’

Antonio Ferme
·2-min read

National Geographic Documentary Films has acquired Oscar-nominated director Matthew Heineman’s documentary “The First Wave,” which will be released theatrically by Neon later this year.

Produced by Participant and Heineman’s Our Time Projects, the documentary will present a ground-level view inside a New York hospital amid the initial explosion of COVID-19. The “first wave” of the virus consumed the city of New York from March through June 2020.

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Heineman, a Primetime Emmy winner and two-time DGA award winner, uses his signature approach of character-driven cinema vérité to document those harrowing first four months by spotlighting a group of brave healthcare workers at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens as they risked their lives in the epic battle to keep the virus at bay.

Additionally, the documentary spotlights the unequal toll of COVID-19, which disproportionately impacted people of color and the economically disadvantaged from the very beginning.

“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.”

Jenna Millman and Leslie Norville serve as producers alongside Heineman. Executive producers include National Geographic’s Bernstein and Ryan Harrington, Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann, as well as Alex Gibney, Leah Natasha Thomas, Maiken Baird, David Fialkow and Joedan Okun. Gibney and Hineman recently collaborated on the two-part HBO documentary about the golf legend Tiger Woods “Tiger,” which Heineman directed.

Watch the teaser trailer below.

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