La Ultima Cena…

La Ulitma Cena, produced in 1976, is the story of a Cuban sugar plantation whose owner attempts to teach a selected few of his slaves about Christianity. The story is based on a historical account by Manuel Moreno Fraginals regarding the Count de Casa Bayona (Mraz 13). In the both portrayals, the slave owner selects twelve of his slaves to have dinner with him. To him, they represent the twelve disciples feasting with him during the last supper, hence the name of the movie. He washes and kisses their feet, wines and dines them, and eventually falls asleep in the dining room with them.
This film provides great insight into the way things were in Cuba during this time period. Numerous sugar plantation issues were shown, as well as the general state of slaves native to this area. At the beginning of the movie, the plantation owner, played by Nelson Villagra, has just arrived to his plantation at the beginning of holy week. Almost simultaneous with his arrival, one of the slaves has escaped, and many of the groundsmen have been dispatched to find him. Along with the fact that plantation owners were rarely around, “runaways were a constant problem for slaveholders” (Mraz 119). These facts are reiterated again much later in the movie, as Villagra’s character leaves while the slaves begin a rebellion and many make a run for it. But back to the beginning….
The scenery itself is even very representative of how it would have been. On the website for The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record, there are numerous painting of the Cuban sugar plantations, looking almost identical to many of the buildings that are seen in the film. Also, during the Hatiain rebellion, many French fled and ended up elsewhere. In this case, “the last supper adds a nice historical detail in the french sugar master”, that may in all reality ended up there for that exact reason (Mraz 118).
During the dinner party where the owner attempts to share with his slaves the happiness that can be found through Christianity, he attempts to recreate the last supper. Interestingly enough, he attempts to associate being a good christian with being a well behaved slave, and in doing this they could find absolute happiness. One of the most intriguing parts of the dinner was the way the slave owner was representing the Lord at the supper, which is not that far off as how they viewed themselves when compared to the slaves. Many conversations are struck, including the freedom of one particular slave, as well as a day off on Good Friday. Also,one slave at the table tells a story of selling his own father into slavery just to feed his family, only then to be sold by them, giving us more insight to how their life really was.
When the slaves finally return to work, they are not only denied their day off, the freed slave is even denied his freedom. The ever absent plantation owner has already left, so they did not have him to support them anymore. So…. the rebelled!!! In Cuba, “such uprisings were a constant feature of slavery on the island” (Mraz 120). When relating this story line back to the Haitian revolts, one could say that “philanthropy laid the grounds for the loss of the flourishing french colonies” (Schultz 33), just as it did here. It is ended with the brutal death of all but one of the twelve fortuned slaves, who were hunted down by dogs and their heads put on stakes as a warning against this happening again. Such cruelty was not unusual in those times.