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National Geographic Makes Oscar-Shortlisted Covid Doc ‘The First Wave’ Free To Watch For Limited Time

National Geographic Covid Doc - The First Wave

Starting today, National Geographic is making its Oscar-shortlisted documentary “The First Wave” available to watch for free for 48 hours.

The documentary follows doctors in a Queens hospital as New York City endured the initial explosion of COVID.

Director Matthew Heineman and his filmmaking team donned PPE to film in the hospital setting, and embedded themselves with a group of doctors, nurses and patients on the frontlines as they all desperately try to navigate the crisis.

“We first really in earnest started thinking about the film in early March [2020] as the first cases of Covid hit the U.S.,” Heineman told online entertainment publication Deadline. “I wanted to try to humanize this issue that at that point was so relegated to headlines and to stats and, frankly, misinformation. The original impetus was really to try to pay homage to the amazing work that health care workers were doing inside hospitals, something that we weren’t seeing as the general public.”

National Geographic Covid Doc - The First Wave

Among the main characters in the documentary is Dr. Nathalie Dougé, an internal medicine physician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, where Heineman and crew filmed for four months.

“This is a film every citizen of the world needs to watch to understand the stress health care workers are under,” Dr. Dougé said in the same interview.

“COVID-19 attacks without remorse and without warning,” she added. “No health care worker could have been prepared for the early stages of the pandemic. Nonetheless, we endured every challenge and obstacle as best we could while working in New York in the winter and spring of 2020. However, the detrimental effects of the mental strain during that time remain. I hope people honor us by taking this opportunity to understand what we had to endure and continue to endure.”

The documentary will be preceded by a special message from Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, addressing and thanking frontline workers and medical support staff, who have selflessly cared for the ill from the outset of the pandemic.


Don’t put off watching this doc if you’re interested, though. “The First Wave” can be seen without commercial interruption only on and through the ABC and National Geographic apps in the U.S., starting this morning until Friday, Jan. 21 at 11:59pm EST.

The documentary also will be available for free during that two-day window through local ABC station apps in: New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Houston; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Fresno, California.

TIP: If you have Hulu + Live, because it offers the National Geographic channel, the documentary will be available in the Nat Geo On Demand section longer than the 48 hours.

Here is the trailer for the documentary: