National Geographic Documentary Films, NEON and Participant just released the trailer and key art for THE FIRST WAVE, the latest film from Oscar-nominated and multiple Emmy award-winning director Matthew Heineman. Heineman produced the film under his Our Time Projects banner alongside producers Jenna Millman (“The Boy From Medellín”) and Leslie Norville (“A Ballerina’s Tale”). The film opened the Hamptons International film festival to widespread critical acclaim before screening at the BFI London Film Festival. It has already won several awards on the festival circuit, most recently the David Carr Award at the Montclair Film Festival, which honors a film exemplifying a commitment to “truth-telling in reporting.” THE FIRST WAVE will close DOC NYC with a gala screening at the Beacon Theater before opening in theaters on Nov. 19.
With exclusive access inside Long Island Jewish Medical Center, one of New York’s hardest-hit hospitals during the terrifying first four months of the pandemic, director Matthew Heineman’s THE FIRST WAVE spotlights the everyday heroes at the epicenter of COVID-19 as they come together to fight one of the greatest threats the world has ever encountered. Leaving a devastating trail of death and despair, this once-in-a-century pandemic changed the very fabric of our daily lives and exposed long-standing inequities in our society.
Employing his signature approach of character-driven cinema vérité, Heineman follows a group of doctors, nurses and patients on the frontlines as they all desperately try to navigate the crisis, including Dr. Nathalie Dougé and ICU Nurse Kellie Wunsch, who put their own lives at risk to save the lives of others, and COVID-19 patients Ahmed Ellis and Brussels Jabon, who were simply fighting to survive. Each distinct storyline in THE FIRST WAVE serves as a microcosm through which we can view the emotional and societal impacts of the pandemic.
“I felt a deep responsibility to document this unprecedented moment in time, to put people in the shoes of those who lived it on the front lines,” said Heineman. “There are many things that I hope audiences take away from this film, but for me, it’s a story about how people come together in times of crisis, it’s about resilience, it’s about the power of hope and the strength of the human spirit.”
“Matthew has a unique talent for gripping and deeply intimate filmmaking that reveals the humanity at the heart of every story he tells. We couldn’t think of a more urgent time to share this compelling and inspiring work of art with the world,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president of Scripted Content and Documentary Films for National Geographic.
Heineman is an Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker known for his sophisticated and immersive style. Heineman received a nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First Time Feature Film Director from the Directors Guild of America for his narrative debut “A Private War” — making Heineman and Martin Scorsese the only filmmakers ever nominated for both narrative and documentary DGA Awards. He previously directed the documentary “Cartel Land,” which was nominated for an Academy Award and won three Primetime Emmy Awards and a DGA Award; “City of Ghosts” for which he won a DGA Award; and the docuseries “The Trade,” which just won two Emmys and was honored by the International Documentary Association as the Best Episodic Series of 2018. Heineman most recently directed and produced HBO’s “Tiger,” a two-part documentary on the legendary Tiger Woods, and “The Boy From Medellín,” chronicling the life of global superstar J. Balvin over a pivotal week in his life. Up next, he is set to write and direct “Paradise,” a narrative adaptation of the true events of the 2018 Paradise Fire.
National Geographic Documentary Films previously released the Academy Award-, BAFTA- and seven-time Emmy Award-winning film FREE SOLO and the Academy Award-nominated film THE CAVE. Other critically acclaimed films under the banner include Ron Howard’s REBUILDING PARADISE; Sundance Audience Award winners SCIENCE FAIR and SEA OF SHADOWS; Emmy winners LA 92 and JANE, both of which were included in the top 15 documentaries considered for an Academy Award in 2017; and Dupont Award winner 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 premium, feature documentaries that cover timely, provocative and globally relevant stories from the very best documentary filmmakers in the world. National Geographic Documentary Films is a division of National Geographic Partners, a joint venture between Disney and the National Geographic Society. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 133 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers … and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27 percent of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information visit natgeotv.com or nationalgeographic.com, 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 (www.participant.com) combines the power of a good story well told with real world impact and awareness around today’s most vital issues. Through its worldwide network of traditional and digital distribution, aligned with partnerships with key non-profit and NGO organizations, Participant speaks directly to the rise of today’s “conscious consumer,” representing the well over 2 billion consumers compelled to make meaningful content a priority focus.
As an industry content leader, Participant annually produces up to six narrative feature films, six documentary films, three episodic television series, and more than 20 hours of digital short form programming. Participant’s more than 100 films have collectively earned 82 Academy Award® nominations and 21 wins, including Best Picture for SPOTLIGHT and GREEN BOOK; Best Documentary Feature for AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, CITIZENFOUR, THE COVE, and AMERICAN FACTORY; and Best Foreign Language Film for ROMA and A FANTASTIC WOMAN. Follow Participant on Twitter (@Participant) and on Facebook and Instagram.
In just four years, NEON has garnered 12 Academy Award® nominations, 5 wins, including Best Picture, and has grossed over $150M at the box office. The company continues to push boundaries and take creative risks on bold cinema such as Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, which made history winning four Academy Awards®, becoming the first non-English-language film to claim Best Picture. The film, which also unanimously won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, has amassed over $53M at the domestic box office and broke multiple records including highest per screen average of the year and highest per screen average for a foreign language film of all time. NEON has amassed a library of over 50 films with noteworthy releases including: Tamara Kotevska and Ljubo Stefanov’s award-winning and record-breaking Honeyland, which is the first non-fiction feature to land Academy Award® nominations for Best Documentary and Best International Feature Film in the same year; Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11, 2019's highest grossing documentary with a worldwide gross of $16M; Tim Wardle's Three Identical Strangers, winner of the Sundance Special Jury Award for Storytelling which surpassed $13M at the box office; and Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya, which garnered multiple Academy Award® nominations, one win for Allison Janney and amassed over $30M in domestic box office.
The company has several projects in various stages of development and production, including Pablo Larraín’s Spencer starring Kristen Stewart; The Painter and the Thief narrative remake, and Duke Johnson’s The Actor starring Ryan Gosling. NEON continues to be an impressive force recently debuting three titles to critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival, and taking their second Palme d’Or winner in a row, just off the heels of Parasite, with Julia Ducournau’s Titane. The company also premiered Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria starring Tilda Swinton, which tied for the Jury Prize, and the anthology feature The Year of the Everlasting Storm. Out of the festival they also acquired: The Worst Person in The World from Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier, which took the Best Actress Award for Renate Reinsve; Jonas Carpignano’s festival sensation A Chiara, which won the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European film in the Directors’ Fortnight section. Additional recent acquisitions include:Zhang Yimou’s One Second and Céline Sciamma’s Petite Mamanwhich will both premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival; and Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee, executive produced by Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. NEON’s recent releases include: Jamila Wignot’s Ailey; Pig, starring Nicolas Cage; Venice's Grand Jury Prize Winner Michel Franco's New Order; Gunda directed by Victor Kossakovsky and executive produced by Joaquin Phoenix; Robert Machoian’s powerful thriller The Killing of Two Lovers; Ben Wheatley's Horror Film In The Earth; R.J. Cutler’s Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry Night of the Kings, Philippe Lacôte’s Ivory Coast Oscar Submission; Andrei Konchalovsky’s Dear Comrades!, Russia’s Academy Award Submission; Francis Lee’s romantic drama Ammonite starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan; Alex’s Gibney’s documentary Totally Under Control; Max Barbakow’s sought after Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg, which NEON acquired with Hulu; Josephine Decker’s Shirley starring Elisabeth Moss; and the critically acclaimed Cannes hit Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes® and Independent Spirit Awards.
After their successful collaboration on I, Tonya in January 2018, 30WEST (Dan Friedkin's and Micah Green's strategic venture) partnered with NEON's Tom Quinn (Founder & CEO) and Tim League (Co-Founder) to become majority investors in the company.
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