A short film hinging on the the awkward question “What’s ‘virgin’ mean?” has gone viral and is inadvertently promoting awareness of olive oil.

Featuring a mother answering an angel-faced child, a Spanish subtitled version on YouTube has had nearly 1.2 million views in just eight months, not far off an English-only version which has now exceeded 1.3 million.

Made in 2008 by award-winning U.K. writer, producer and director Michael Davies, the comedy has won six international awards and continues to climb in cyber popularity, lately generating buzz in the Spanish blogosphere.

It’s even mistaken by some for an ad. In Andalusian newspaper Diario Jaén last week, a piece appeared under the title, “Olive Oil Campaign.”

Spoiler alert
As a Spanish viewer wrote, whatever the context, virgin is a way to say that something is pure. Another commented that the term had long lent itself to confusion and innuendo.

Others quipped: “What was the mother thinking leaving virgin olive oil in the child’s view?”, “Virgin olive oil, always wreaking havoc in young minds” and “Extra virgin olive oil, stoking desire since 1700.”

In the short, the mother only twigs when her daughter asks a second question, “So what’s extra virgin mean?” (To find out the technical answer, click here.)

Conceived by an olive oil connoisseur, and father of four sons…
The 2:34 minute film was written and directed by Davies and was his first comedy short. It features Kate Issit as the mother and Rebecca Duffy as her daughter.

Davies told Olive Oil Times that inspiration struck one evening as he followed a “particularly complicated” lasagne recipe by London-based Italian chef Antonio Carluccio. (The film opens with it.)

“It specified frying the vegetables in extra virgin olive oil. This surprised me as I thought extra virgin burned at a lower temperature than virgin olive oil, and was therefore less suitable for frying. I took a sip of wine, and considered the difference between extra virgin and virgin for a moment, and then thought about the words themselves and what – if applied to a person – being extra virgin would mean…?

“I have four children (all boys) so I’m used to answering rather bizarre questions, and I guess I was just trying to predict what I might say to them if they asked me the question I was asking myself…  And that’s what gave me the idea for a film.

“The biggest thrill was watching it in a packed, 750-seat cinema, and feeling the building shake with people’s laughter.”

Best on bruschetta for breakfast
Davies says he loves olive oil.  “I probably have at least half a dozen different bottles on the go at any one time. One of my favorite uses for the best olive oil is at breakfast – drizzled over a simple bruschetta of sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and a few torn fresh basil leaves, with coarse ground pepper.”

And yes, he does know what virgin means. “Virgin olive oil is typically cold pressed, using only mechanical means, rather than chemicals (yuk) or heat (obviously). This means that it’s pure, and allows for the greatest diversity of flavors so that different producers and different terroir etc. all have their influence. To me, the best is like fine wine, which I also enjoy.”

Davies began his career in BBC Television Features, where his work included the critically acclaimed series “Barnardo’s Children”.

“What’s ’virgin’ mean?”  has  been  screened  at over fifty festivals around the world. Davies’ latest short film, “Love At First Sight” starring Phyllida Law and John Hurt, has already won at least eight awards and one special mention.


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