La última cena

The film La última cena was a relatively accurate historical depiction of the relationship between a Count and his slaves. In this film, the viewers saw the terrible oppression that the slaves endured on a Havana sugar mill and the ridiculous reasons the owner used to justify their treatment.  Predictably and rightfully the slaves revolted after reaching a boiling point of cruelty and malevolence shown by the Count and his overseer.  

In the film, the Count had a God-complex, much like many of the other slave owners throughout history. They believed in their own divinity and the inferiority of their slaves. To these owners, slaves were not people and therefore not worthy of humane treatment.  According to John Mraz, the treatment of the slaves and reaction shown in the film had historical grounds.  “Rebellion was a constant feature” on the Islands, fires were started and equipment tampered with to escape grueling labor. The punishments for these rebellions were harsh as depicted in visual photos provided by Michael Tuite Jr. and Jerome Handler. One imaged showed a naked slave whose hands and feet were tied to stakes while the overseer was whipping him. This heartlessness was paralleled in the movie when Sebastian was capture and had his ear cut off. Both these slaves were made examples of and were trying to be shown humility and their own insignificance.  

The film did an excellent job portraying the twelve slaves. They all came from different backgrounds and their personalities were manifested by these variations. Mraz commented on the accuracy of these differences saying that often movies collectively place all the slaves from one place, without specifying the different locations. In reality, these different locations were quite important for the slave’s personality, way of thinking, and skill set. The twelve talk about their history and homeland. One even stated that he was a king, while another mentions the story of a young boy who sells his father in to slavery and in turn is sold into slavery by his family so they could eat twice; he hints that he was this child. During the entire film these backgrounds determine their reactions to the Counts kindness, his betrayal, and their attempted escape. A great example is when eleven of the slaves are caught and killed while only Sebastian survives. Sebastian was brought up to be a survivor and to live off the land and be strong. He learned to never trust the white man, and therefore was never fooled by the Count.

The treatment of the slaves by the Count closely resembled many of the officials in Kristen Schultz’s article about Brazilian citizenship. The Count in La última cena along with some of these men saw the terrible conditions of the slaves’ lives, acknowledged the conditions, and even tried acting like they wanted to help. However, the Count was only treating the slaves kindly so they would not rebel, and some of the officials only wanted to help the slaves if it did not inconvenience them or their lifestyle.  The Count tried introducing twelve slaves to Jesus Christ and show them the way to salvation was through suffering. However, the Count only valued production process over religious obligation just like the Brazilian officials valued political security over philanthropy (Mraz 7-13 &Schultz, 33).