Thursday 20 June 2019
Virgin and Extra: The Land of the Olive Oil (film review)
This fascinating documentary explores the history and heritage of olive oil in Jaén, which produces almost half of Spain's olive oil. The film shines a light on the complexity of the product, the diversity of its flavours and colours, the varied ways it is used in cooking, together with its status as a superfood and many recognised health benefits.
Watching the film, I was astonished by how much of the area is covered in olive groves, extending seemingly forever. Some of them are quite bare of other vegetation, but a couple of interviewees in the film described their concerns for biodiversity and how some of the farms at least are working to increase their biodiversity with ground cover crops.
Virgin and Extra Virgin olive oils are in themselves relatively new products and it was interesting to watch the competition to find the best oil and hear the judges talk about how many more great oils there are these days than there used to be. Also interesting to see the olives actually being processed into oil. Virgin and extra virgin oils are extracted mechanically and don't contain additives, which mean they are tastier and healthier than other oils.
Since reading this article I've become very concerned about how olives are harvested, as some of the mechanical methods result in the deaths of large numbers of birds. So I was watching this film very carefully to see how the olives were actually harvested and it seems that in the featured farms at least, the olives are picked mostly by hand with mechanisation used only to transport them. If you want to source a bird friendly olive oil (edited to add, my blogpost on this topic is now up here) you may want to do more research on this, but Jaen based The Green Gold Olive Oil Company certainly harvests its olives manually.
Virgin and Extra is definitely an interesting film for foodies and you may even pick up some ideas for delicious recipes from some of the featured chefs!
Virgin and Extra is screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019 at 1540, Saturday 22 June and at 1310 Sunday 23 June, both at Odeon Lothian Road. You can book tickets here.
If you're interested in the role of olive trees in agriculture and culture then you may also be interested in The Olive Tree, screening as part of the Spanish strand at this years Edinburgh International Film Festival. I saw this excellent and moving film when it was first shown at the festival in 2016. You can read my review here.
The Olive Tree is screening as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival at 1800, Saturday 29 June at Odeon Lothian Road. You can buy tickets here.
You can read my earlier reviews from Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019, by following the links below:
Boyz in the Wood a group of teenage boys get lost in the Scottish Highlands.
2040 - can technology offer solutions to our current climate and ecological crises?
Bait - Cornish fishermen try to adapt to a changing world
How to Fake a War (on my Shapeshifting Green blog) what happens when a rock star decides to meddle in international affairs?
Farm Animals on Film - featuring The Biggest Little Farm - an inspiring story of the creation of a sustainable biodiverse farm in California, plus Vulture, an experimental film about farm animals.
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the film festival and attended a free press screening of these films.