In Sean Penn’s new film, “The Last Face,” University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s own Dr. Enrique Ginzburg has his on-screen theatrical debut as a trauma surgeon in a makeshift hospital in the war-torn African state of Liberia.
Ginzburg first met Penn through Project Medishare For Haiti, which empowers Haitians to provide and receive access to quality healthcare. Both Ginzburg and Penn went to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake to provide aid and assistance. Ginzburg was the medical director for the whole project.
But this wasn’t the last time the pair would meet.
While collaborating with the J/P Haitian Relief Organization (JPHRO), a Haitian Non-Government Organization (NGO) in Washington D.C., Ginzburg and Penn reconnected over breakfast and shared what they had been up to since the last time they were together saving lives in Haiti.
Months passed and the two remained in contact. The pair met up yet again, this time not over eggs Benedict and coffee. Penn was one of Ginzburg’s patients when he returned ill from his last trip to Haiti.
Over a year after treating Penn, Ginzburg received a text from him asking his thoughts about certain medical scenes in a script he was writing for his new film.
The plot is a love story between a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ physician, played by Academy Award winner Javier Bardem, and another physician who works as a director for an NGO, played by Academy Award winner Charlize Theron. The film follows them through multiple instances of the African civil war in Liberia in 1994.
Ginzburg went over the scenes, adding his own input, and got back to Penn. After reading Ginzburg’s advice, Penn believed Ginzburg would be a great addition to the film and asked him if he would be interested in being flown to Cape Town, South Africa, to assist with the film.
Ginzburg excitedly took Penn up on his offer and traveled to Cape Town more than four times over the next two years.
The last time, however, instead of being behind the camera helping with scenes, Penn asked Ginzburg if he would like to make an onscreen appearance.
Although he never expected to be on the big screen, his transition was “easy” from speaking at many conferences in front of very large crowds.
“When you give lectures and do conferences, there’s a certain element of being comfortable and trying to make points more lucid to the audience,” Ginzburg said.
However, Ginzburg did understand “what actors go through … Becoming very concerned with how they are portrayed,” from having three cameras shooting at him directly from different angels.
“There’s a sense of insecurity,” Ginzburg said.
Ginzburg spent a day and a half filming several scenes, which he said was, “one of the highlights of my life.”
He said he enjoyed the energy on set and realism of his scenes. He said the set was very comparable to war-torn African nations.
“I went to a meeting with trauma doctors,” Ginzburg said. “And I put a picture of a patient from a scene, and they were flabbergasted that it was from a movie.”
He said taking his skills from a real-life trauma room and showing them off onset was a new and fun experience.
“The most fun parts were going to dinner and sitting around on the set with the actors that you always see in movies,” he said. “Engaging in conversations with interesting and dynamic personalities created a camaraderie amongst everyone. It becomes like a family in those moments.”
Although Ginzburg’s days on set filming “The Last Face” have come to an end, who knows what the future may hold for him in future acting projects.