Liberians have all reasons to celebrate their countryman. For 14 years, the country was only synonymous with war, refugees and killings. Even when another Liberian fought to project a more humane side of Africa’s oldest republic, the images of war seemed to drown the cacophony of chants from millions of soccer-crazed fans around the world who marveled at the exploits of that famous Liberian then, the indefatigable George Weah. Now another Liberian is making his country proud, and though he’s projecting the ugliest side of his country as was seen or heard on CNN or BBC during the hazy war years, Liberians are today celebrating Zubin Cooper because of his almost Cinderella-like transformation.
The weekend premier of The Last Face at the 2016 Cannes International Film Festival held over the weekend at the Palais des Festivals, Cannes, had all the fireworks and accompanying stars. From Academy Award winners Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, to the venerable French actor Jean Reno, Sean Penn’s cast was a Hollywood Who’s-Who list. Except for one singular Liberian fellow how seemed to hug the limelight with aplomb.
According to production notes from the Lionsgate company which produced The Last Face, Zubin Cooper was originally hired as an advisor to the production crew to bring authenticity to the film which centers around a love affair between Dr. Wren Petersen (Academy Award winner, Charlize Theron), the director of an international aid organization; and Dr. Miguel Leon (Academy Award winner, Javier Bardem), a relief-aid doctor.
The Last Face is actually set against the devastating backdrop of war-torn Liberia, where Miguel and Wren must find a way to keep their relationship alive in extraordinarily difficult conditions battling their mutual passion for the value of life matched by the intensity of their diametrically opposed opinions on how best to solve the conflict that surrounds them. Directed by two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn, The Last Face also stars Primetime Emmy nominee Jared Harris and celebrated French actor Adèle Exarchopoulos.
In Liberia, there is a wise saying that goes like this: “what’s yours shall surely see your face”. Fate jumped right in Zubin’s face purely due to unforeseen circumstances, but also to his ability to grab fate by the tail. Speaking to Capitol Times, Zubin reveals that the role of Dr. Moussa which he played in the movie was originally intended for a Liberian actor – not particularly him.
“But at the time, due to Ebola, the directors could not get hold of any Liberian to fill the role. When I was approached to try out, I was kind of apprehensive because I had only done a few cameo roles in Liberia. However, when I did the screen test and passed with flying colors, I was selected to play the role of Dr. Moussa,” Zubin recounts.
Dr. Moussa is an assistant to Dr. Miguel Leon (Javier Bardem) who refuses to leave Liberia when the conflict escalated. “Dr. Miguel, myself and my family, we are fleeing the fighting, and what happens next is another great part of the film,” Zubin tells Capitol Times.
Now that he has tasted the highlights of haute couture, what’s next for Zubin Copper?
“I am not going to let this fire die out. I did this for Liberia, for all the artists out there. I will be working with them to showcase Liberian talents to the world. We have a lot to offer. We have to tell the story of the war so people can remember; so that we don’t make the same mistakes of the past,” says Zubin.
For now, even though most of The Last Face’s reviews are not so smoldering, Zubin Cooper is the next best fire to light up the world of Liberian entertainment.