'The First Wave': Matthew Heineman’s Upcoming COVID-19 Documentary

A first look at the film about the pandemic that “has forced us to question everything.”


For those of us in New York City during Spring 2020, it’s hard to put COVID-19’s effect on the city into words. A beloved soundtrack of traffic honking as it whizzes past bustling crowds was quickly replaced with near-constant sirens. Hope and energy coursing through the streets turned to a kind of ghost town void of both. But, what was it like on the front lines-- in the hospitals that faced the unthinkable?

Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Matthew Heineman, has taken on the weighty task of bringing the reality of how COVID-19 attacked New York City to all of us. From National Geographic and Neon, The First Wave is a documentary that will follow healthcare workers from March through June of 2020 at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens-- one of the hardest hit hospitals in NYC.

Heineman told Variety “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.” The film was produced in part by Participant, whose chief content officer, Diane Weyermann said “Matthew Heineman and the incredible filmmaking team behind The First Wave have created a vital film of and for our time spotlighting the heroic work of frontline responders and exposing the urgent need for drastic change toward racial and health equity.”  

“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,” said Heineman. The film will be released in theaters sometime later this year in the U.S. followed by an international broadcast on National Geographic.