Matthew Heineman interview: ‘The First Wave’ director

“The First Wave” is a feature documentary on the Oscar shortlist that follows nurses, doctors, and administrators as they respond during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York. Director Matthew Heineman reveals that he woke up in March of 2020 terrified by the potential “tsunami” about to sweep across the country. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

“I felt this enormous obligation to try to document this moment,” Heineman explains. “We were so inundated with stats and headlines. I wanted to put a human face to it. We were clapping at 7pm for healthcare workers. We were talking about it as if it was a war zone with doctors and nurses on the frontlines. We weren’t seeing those images. So I wanted to try to put people right in the middle of it.”

Heineman shares that when they began filming they were completely oblivious to what was on the horizon. “When we started shooting this we had no idea where this was all going to go,” he admits. “We were so naive thinking that this was going to last two or three weeks. We were shooting 16-18 hours a day. Obviously, it continued and we ended up shooting for four months. It was by far the hardest film I’ve ever made. It was an absolutely terrifying experience.”

Although the subject matter of the film is primarily the COVID-19 pandemic, Heineman hopes people take more away from the NatGeo film. “It’s about the power of the human spirit,” he says. “It’s about how human beings come together in the face of crisis. It’s about racial injustice. It’s about many things we experienced over those four months.”

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UPLOADED Jan 25, 2022 12:22 pm