La Ultima Cena

La Ultima Cena tells the story of a slave owner who is in search of some divine truth to his own troubles and is influenced by his priest to partake in a series of radical activities that are filled with hypocrisies. During the holy week, viewers witness the treatment of slaves by the owner, the overseer and a priest which include acts of both kindness and brutality. Placed in Havana, Cuba, this film shows a different side to the slave trade that has dominated the American film industry. Small Caribbean islands like Cuba held equally unjust systems from not only white colonialists but aboriginal people as well. The battle between the overseer, Dan Manuel, and the film’s eventual ‘hero,’ Sebastian, have a sense of the wronged vs. the wrong. In its finale, the film leaves the viewer with little resolution; while Sebastian finally escapes from his enslavement, the other 11 ‘apostles’ are left with their heads on pikes.

La Ultima Cena projects its audience into a mindset of surreal disbelief. Its depiction of one man’s treatment of a group of his African slaves seems outlandish and unreal. The absurdity that takes place at and before his dinner table is hard to wrap one’s mind around. His imitation of the last supper is a grotesque depiction from a confused man, lost in his own selfishness and unwilling to relent his cruel ownership over an innocent people.

The Atlantic slave trade permeated the whole of the Americas including countless islands in and around this massive tract of land. As seen in a series of documented drawing, Africans were captured, sold, and enslaved by not only Europeans but native Americans and their own African people as well. The scene in La Ultima Cena bringing this variety of African cultures together touches on the differences that were surely prevalent among slaves. Coming from a number of regions throughout western and central Africa, a clash of cultures surely ensued. As one man brags to the slave owner of his history as a businessman in the slave trade, others like Sebastian sit in sullen silence, stubborn in their hatred for their owner. The issue of freedom comes into discussion as one man is granted his freedom. But what can a slave do with freedom in a society ridden with enslavement? In the colonial Americas, was freedom really a possibility for Africans or merely a word, a euphemism for their symbolic and permanent enslavement?