Director Matthew Heineman discusses The First Wave

Director Matthew Heineman discusses The First Wave

November 1, 2021 An Eastern Region Special Projects Documentary Series Screening

The electrifying story of the terrifying first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic is revealed in Director Matthew Heineman’s documentary, The First Wave.

Heineman’s film spotlights the everyday heroes inside one of New York's hardest hit hospital systems as they come together to fight one of the greatest threats the world has ever encountered and desperately try to navigate the once-in-a-century crisis that changed the very fabric of our daily lives and exposed long-standing inequities in our society.

Following a welcome from DGA Eastern Region Special Projects Committee Chair Raymond De Felitta, the Committee's Documentary Series screened the film in New York on November 1. After the screening, Heineman spoke with Director Marc Levin (I Promise) about the making of The First Wave.

During the conversation, Heineman spoke about the responsibility he felt while crafting what he described as, “by far the hardest film I ever made.”

“Whether you were directly impacted or not, hopefully the film shows the side of COVID that most people haven’t seen and most of us are shielded from. One of the greatest tragedies of COVID — especially in those early weeks and months — is that we as an American public were so shielded from the realities that was happening inside hospitals, how people were living and how they were dying. It’s really sad how divisive and political COVID became. In another alternate universe it’s something that could have brought our country together instead it further divided us. So, I think we just felt this big responsibility to try to capture what was happening.”

Heineman’s other directorial credits include the documentary features, The Boy from Medellín and Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare; and episodes of the television documentary mini-series Tiger and The Trade. He is a two-time winner of the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary for his 2017 film, City of Ghosts and his 2015 film, Cartel Land, which also won a Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. He was also nominated for the 2018 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in First-Time Feature Film for his debut narrative feature, A Private War. Heineman has been a DGA member since 2015.

You can listen to Heineman's Q&A by clicking the podcast episode embedded below. You can find more DGA podcast episodes here.


Q&A photos by Marcie Revens - Print Courtesy of National Geographic Documentary Films, Participant and NEON

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