La Ultima Cena

Last weeks film, La Ultima Cena (The Last Supper) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, depicts slavery on a sugar plantation in Cuba.  The film is set during Holy Week.  The film centers around slavery and rebellion.  The count wants to better help the slaves understand Christianity.  He then selects 12 slaves to help recreate “the Last Supper.”  During the supper, the slaves are promised no work on Good Friday.  Ultimately, the slaves rebel, kill Don Manuel, and the Master wants the 12 men dead.  On Saturday, 11 of the 12 are dead and their heads are on display.  Sebastian, the slave who had his ear cut off early in the film for trying to escape, is the only one who remains alive of the 12 slaves from “the Last Supper” table. 

This film depicts slavery rebellion during the time period well.  It exposes the brutality of slavery and how Christianity is used in justifying slavery.  Furthermore, slavery, like many other dominant ideas, needed to be justified by human beings and Christianity was the route taken for justification.  Obviously, this concept of slavery was taken way over board by human beings. 

When reading John Mraz, “Recasting Cuban Slavery: The Other Francisco and The Last Supper”, he talks about how religion is the main theme during “the Last Supper.”  Also, he states, “the cultural variety among the slaves allows for much interaction between them and the count during the dinner scene.  Another important aspect deals with the dilemma posed for the characters of the priest and the overseer.  The priest’s obligation to instruct the blacks in Christian doctrine is portrayed as being constantly in conflict with the overseer’s duties to maximize production.”  Furthermore, he says, “’The Last Supper’ provides an insightful glance into the functioning of paternalism and religion in slave society.”  This is important like stated earlier; slavery was a dominant concept in Christianity during that time.  This film is a great historical reference for how things really were for slaves.   

Overall, the film depicts accurately the life of a slave and the rebellion many experienced.  Because of the brutality of the slavery system, it was common for slaves to attack their owners.  Like in ”the Last Supper”, Sebastian kills Don Manuel.  This was certainly something that happened a lot because of how the owners abused their powers over slaves.  Mraz states it perfectly when he says, “One Holy Thursday he washed twelve Negroes’ feet, sat them at his table, and served them food in imitation of Christ.  But their theology was somewhat shallow and, instead of behaving like the Apostles, they took advantage of the prestige they thus acquired in their fellow-slaves’ eyes to organize a mutiny and burn down the mill.”