Week 2- The Last Supper

The Last Supper was an interesting movie for a number of reasons. First, it appears that the movie stays somewhat true to its subject matter historically; at the very least it does a better job than our first movie, The Mission. From what was seen in class and what was written in the readings, the place and time seem pretty dead on and it stayed close to the actual events. For example, John Mraz comments on how the movie insists on recognizing the slaves’ “varied origins, something rarely done in film or other forms of popular history.” (Mraz, 118) In fact, The Last Supper even went so far as to include other historical events that were not even on the same continent that occurred at the same time. As mentioned by Mraz, the Haitian slave revolt “left Cuban slaveholders trembling in fear” with the French sugar master’s comments attesting “to this constant preoccupation.” (Mraz, 119) The Last Supper was actually a historically accurate portrayal that took into consideration other events in the region that were happening at the same time as the story. It was an interesting contrast to The Mission where it appeared that instead of checking for historical accuracy the filmmakers played rolled the dice with what to include in the movie, totally ignoring the reality of the situation they were dealing with.

The way in which the slave owner dealt with the rebelling slaves was also very interesting, if at the same time horrifying. After catching slaves who had escaped, due in part to the master’s own actions, the master proceeds to have them beheaded and place their heads on pikes surrounding the site of a new church, dedicated to the tyrannical slave master that had been killed in the slave revolt. While there is no doubt that a slave master would likely have killed the ring leaders of a slave rebellion to prove a point, the act of beheading them seemed like an isolated incident. Looking through The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record, specifically the albums concerning “Physical Punishment, Rebellion, Running Away” there was not a single image that showed slaves who had been beheaded. While this collection is by no means a complete example of all the punishments ever inflicted on slaves, there is nothing that shows heads on pikes. There are various extreme forms of punishment such as a metal face mask and collar punishments from Trinidad in the 1830’s, but still beheadings are left out. While The Last Supper is hailed as historically accurate, as mentioned before, it might be that beheadings were not as common as the movie would have viewers believe.

In the end, The Last Supper is a historically accurate film, if one that shows an isolated incident in the life of slaves. Not many masters would be willing to even eat with slaves, much less wash their feet. While it is based on a true story, it must be said that it was an aberration, a fluke, an event that did not happen very often.