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The First Wave (2021)

The First Wave (2021)

A highly emotional COVID documentary that expertly bridges the personal to the political

The Very Best

8.0

Movie

United States of America
English
Documentary, History
2021
MATTHEW HEINEMAN
Al Sharpton, Andrew Cuomo
94 min

What it's about

When Covid-19 hit New York City in 2020, filmmaker Matthew Heineman gained unique access to one of New York’s hardest-hit hospital systems. The resulting film focuses on the doctors, nurses, and patients on the frontlines during the “first wave” from March to June 2020. Their distinct storylines each serve as a microcosm to understand how the city persevered through the worst pandemic in a century

The take

Focusing squarely on two families and a select few health workers, The First Wave gets intimate access to the fears and anxieties of individuals trying to contend with the effects of the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in New York. That these characters also tend to belong to already vulnerable sectors in the United States isn't a superfluous detail—as director Matthew Heineman illustrates (without the use of detached talking heads interviews) how proper responses to a global pandemic like this one are still hampered by capitalist interests, and racist and xenophobic institutions built into American society. All of these obstacles make every setback and every moment of progress in these characters' lives feel absolutely crucial, making for an emotionally overwhelming experience.

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