The First Wave director Matthew Heineman said his Covid documentary was both frightening and inspiring. Heineman followed medical personnel at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the Queens borough of New York for four months in 2020. He spoke at Deadline’s Contenders Film: Documentary event about the experience.
“I think it was a terrifying experience for everyone involved,” Heineman said. “Every single day, though, my crew and I just were so deeply inspired by the love, by the humanity, by the dedication of these health care workers that we profiled.”
He said one of the most difficult parts of filming The First Wave was watching people die of Covid.
“I think one of the hardest aspects of Covid that we all lived with was how deeply isolating it was,” Heineman said. “To make these life-or-death decisions, to have to communicate with loved ones, have to say goodbye through an iPad or an iPhone was really, really difficult for everyone involved.”
In the cases where patients died, Heineman had to have difficult conversations with their families about including their loved ones in the film.
“These are obviously conversations that had to happen quickly in intense situations,” he said. “But I think the overwhelming feeling was that people felt that this needed to be documented.”
Heineman, however, said it inspired him to see doctors, nurses and administrators continuing to do their best to help patients.
“To see them continue day in, day out do everything they could with love, with care to save these patients, it was a life-changing experience for us, for me, for everyone involved in the film,” Heineman said.
National Geographic’s The First Wave is in theaters.
Check out the panel video above.
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