Incisive Swedish documentary explores the worldwide practice of granting prisoners on death row the right to choose a final meal, hours before execution.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
With the precision of a deftly wielded surgical tool, Last Supper explores the practice of granting prisoners on death row the right to choose a final meal to be set down before them in the hours before execution. It’s a ritualistic gesture of mercy that occurs, with variations, in an astonishing array of cultures. Presenting startling, often macabre imagery with a cool formalism and making inventive use of a disquieting soundtrack, the filmmakers delve into the histories of the practice and hear stories from prison guards and former prisoners in the United States, South Africa, Japan and the Philippines. Particularly eloquent is a tough-looking Texan inmate turned chef, who, in preparing last meals for over 200 death row prisoners, has had plenty of time to think about what it all means. The filmmakers’ attitude to the hypocrisy of the chivalrous gesture is unequivocal from the outset, but the wealth of last-supper lore they’ve turned up makes it very clear that it’s not just Texas that’s under the knife; it’s humanity. — BG