In honor of frontline healthcare workers, National Geographic Documentary Films will air the critically acclaimed documentary THE FIRST WAVE on NatGeo.Com

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–National Geographic Documentary Films announced today that it will make Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman THE FIRST WAVE Available on National Geographic online ( ad-free and free to watch on the ABC and National Geographic TV apps in the US for 48 hours, starting at 12:01 a.m. EST on Thursday, January 20 – the second anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in the US The documentary full will also be available on local ABC station apps in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno. The 48-hour virtual event will feature a special message from Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy addressing and thanking frontline workers and medical support staff. Additionally, there will be a live Facebook Q&A discussion scheduled for Friday, January 21 at 2 p.m. EST with the Executive Director of Pandemic Prevention and Health Systems and Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Skoll Foundation, the director Matthew Heineman and film participant Dr. Nathalie Dougé. THE FIRST WAVE is currently streaming on Hulu.

THE FIRST WAVE is about a lot of things, but, at its core, it’s about how human beings come together in the face of crisis,” director Heineman said. “I hope the film pays tribute to the brave healthcare workers who have risked their lives on the front lines of this ongoing pandemic. Now, nearly two years into the crisis, they more than ever deserve our gratitude and our support.”

“This is a film that ALL citizens of the world MUST watch to understand the stress healthcare workers are under. COVID-19 attacks without remorse and without warning,” said film participant Dr. Nathalie Dougé. No healthcare worker could have been prepared for the early stages of the pandemic, nevertheless, we endured all the challenges and obstacles as best we could while working in New York in the winter and spring of 2020. However, the The ill effects of mental strain during this time remain. I hope people will honor us by taking this opportunity to understand what we had to endure and continue to endure.

With exclusive access to one of New York’s hardest-hit hospital systems for the first four months of the pandemic, THE FIRST WAVE spotlights everyday heroes at the epicenter of COVID-19 as they come together to fight one of the greatest threats the world has ever faced. This once-in-a-century pandemic has changed the very fabric of our daily lives and exposed long-standing inequalities in our society. Using his signature character-driven approach to cinema verité, Heineman embeds himself with a group of doctors, nurses and patients on the front lines as they all try desperately to navigate through the crisis. Each distinct scenario serving as a microcosm through which we can view the emotional and societal impacts of the pandemic, THE FIRST WAVE testifies to the strength of the human spirit.

To support frontline healthcare workers like those featured in the film, Participant, alongside National Geographic Documentary Films and Neon, has partnered with national healthcare and pandemic response organizations # FirstRespondersFirst, the Pandemic Action Network and the American Medical Students Association on THE FIRST WAVE impact campaign. This effort will give impetus to programs and policies that support the mental health and well-being of our healthcare workers, who find themselves exhausted, stressed and, in some cases, traumatized by the pandemic.

More recently, THE FIRST WAVE impact campaign in partnership with the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation, which spearheaded the Dr. Lorna Breen Healthcare Provider Protection Act. It aims to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health problems among healthcare professionals. The bill passed the House of Representatives in December 2021 and is now awaiting final Senate approval. The foundation has worked closely with congressional sponsors to ensure this approval occurs in January 2022, and once it does, it will be sent to the president’s office for signature. For more information on how to support healthcare workers, visit

“THE FIRST WAVE tells the story experienced by so many of our healthcare staff over the first four months and over the past 20 months. We lost Lorna in the first wave of the pandemic due to the trauma she suffered on the front line,” said Corey Feist, co-founder of Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation. “A large sector of the healthcare workforce has now had similar experiences. As a society, we owe it to our healthcare workers, who have worked tirelessly to care for us every day and continue to put themselves at risk, to watch this film to understand what they have been through and how it is essential for us to welcome and support them. The Dr. Lorna Breen Foundation is very grateful for the opportunity to partner with and support this critical documentary.

From National Geographic Documentary Films and Participant, the film premiered at festivals around the world before being released theatrically by NEON in November 2021. Critics hailed the film as a “brave and amazing cinematic time capsule.” (Variety), “a moving, intelligent, deeply human documentary on the pandemic” (The New York Times), and “a powerful testimony and unfailing memory of the lives lost, the selfless commitment of healthcare professionals and research of hope in times of despair” (Screen International). The film won numerous awards, including the David Carr Award, which recognizes a film illustrating a commitment to “telling the truth in reporting”, the prestigious Pare Lorentz Award from the International Documentary Association and a nomination for Best Documentary Feature by The Producers Guild of America.The film was also recently shortlisted for an Oscar. (

THE FIRST WAVE is produced by Jenna Millman and Leslie Norville. It is produced by Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Carolyn Bernstein, Ryan Harrington, Maiken Baird, Alex Gibney, Leah Natasha Thomas, David Fialkow, Pagan Harleman and Joedan Okun.

National Geographic Documentary Films has already released the Oscar, BAFTA and seven-time Emmy-winning film FREE SOLO and the Oscar-nominated film THE CAVE. Other critically acclaimed films under the banner include E. Chai Vasarheyli and Jimmy Chin’s THE RESCUE, Liz Garbus’ BECOME COUSTEAU, and Ron Howard REBUILDING PARADISE; Sundance People’s Choice Award Winners SCIENCE FAIR and SEA OF SHADOWS; Emmy Award Winners THE 92 and JOAN, who were both included in the 15 best documentaries considered for an Oscar in 2017; and winner of the Dupont Prize HELL ON EARTH: THE FALL OF SYRIA AND THE RISE OF ISIS.

About National Geographic Documentary Films

National Geographic Documentary Films is committed to bringing the world documentary feature films that cover timely, provocative and globally relevant stories from the world’s best documentary filmmakers. National Geographic Documentary Films is a division of National Geographic Partners, a joint venture between Disney and the National Geographic Society. Deepening knowledge and understanding of our world has been National Geographic’s primary purpose for 133 years, and now we are committed to reaching further, to pushing the boundaries, to reaching further for our consumers…and to reaching people. million people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages ​​every month like we do. NGP returns 27% of our proceeds to the non-profit National Geographic Society to fund work in science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information, visit or, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.


Founded by Chairman Jeff Skoll and under the leadership of CEO David Linde, Participant ( combines the power of a good story told well with real impact and awareness of today’s most vital issues. . Through its global traditional and digital distribution network, aligned with partnerships with key nonprofits and NGOs, Participant speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer”, representing the most 2 billion consumers forced to make meaningful content a priority. .

As the industry’s content leader, Participant produces up to six narrative feature films, six documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 20 hours of short-form digital programming each year. The more than 100 entrants’ films collectively garnered 82 Oscar® nominations and 21 wins, including Best Picture for Projector and green paper; Best Documentary Feature for An inconvenient truth, CITIZENFOUR, The cove and American factory; and Best Foreign Language Film for Rome and A fantastic woman. The entrant also garnered 44 Emmy® Award nominations and 11 wins, including two for the groundbreaking When they see us. Follow the participant on Twitter (@Participant) and on Facebook and Instagram.

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