Culinary Zinema, the film and food section of San Sebastián’s Film Festival, served as tasty stage for the première of “Jaén, Virgin & Extra,” a new documentary film about olive oil that wants to share the spirit and culture surrounding olive cultivation and oil production in this Spanish province, the largest olive oil-producing region in the world.

In the documentary, Spanish filmmaker and producer José Luis López Linares highlights olive oil’s role in the Mediterranean diet and the landscape of Jaén and its olive groves. The film, a vehicle for the sector’s national and international promotion, also explains the role Picual olive variety has played in Jaén’s 21st-century olive oil revolution.

“Jaén, Virgin & Extra” continues the gastronomic saga initiated by López Linares with “The Mystery of Palo Cortado,” a highly praised film about Sherry Wines that inspired the filmmaker to delve into the secrets of another icon of Spain’s gastronomy.

The documentary introduces viewers to the universe of Jaén’s olive oils, their culture, monuments, landscapes, history, biodiversity, and scientific research through the eyes and voices of those who have contributed to its transformation. The cast describes with precision and emotion all stages of the route of olive oil, from the tree to the table, adding value to this millenary and contemporary food.

The script pays special attention to the revolution driven by the reappreciation of Picual as a pivotal platform to bring Jaén to the zenith of olive oil production, nurturing transcendental changes to oliviculture in Andalusia and Spain. According to Santiago Botas, from Gaulas Consulting, this transformation was the result of an earlier olive harvest, which helped express the sensorial qualities in a Picual picked before to its veraison.

Picual monovarietals have won more awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition than any other.

“Traditionally, oils in Jaén were made of ripe Picual olives, which show organoleptic traits that are not as good as those harvested earlier. This changed 15 to 20 years ago when some producers began to make oils from early harvests,” Botas noted.

“Their excellent results stimulated other producers and cooperatives to replicate this cycle, which derived in a global recognition of the quality of early Picuals from Jaén,” said the expert who assisted in the film’s production and acted as a liaison between the producers and many players from the olive sector who appeared in the documentary.

This quality enhancement is just a portion of a collective exercise that has brought other professionals into the promotional equation of Jaén’s Picual. Gastronomy has been a key vehicle for the dissemination of the merits of these EVOOs and Spanish chefs have become some of their most prominent advocates.

Michelin-starred chefs Paco Roncero, Paco Morales, Oscar Velasco, Dani García and María José San Román were some of the culinary professionals who took part in the 90-minute documentary that reunited almost 60 top professionals from many disciplines, including food critics and journalists, archeologists, olive growers, botanists, professors, agronomists, sommeliers, oil tourism guides, boutique managers and tasting experts.

The Diputación of Jaén along with the Caja Rural de Jaén were the two institutions that expressed their strong commitment to the sector and Jaén’s signature product by becoming the film’s main sponsors.

A winner of various Goya Awards, Spain’s equivalent to the Oscars, López-Linares began this oil project in the fall of 2017, coinciding with the beginning of Picual’s early harvest and the appearance of the first premium oils.

Celebrity flamenco singer and a native from Jaén Carmen Linares seasoned the documentary with musical pieces, including those from Jaén’s traditional song repertoire.

A dinner at the Basque Culinary Center prepared by chef Paco Morales (Noor, Córdoba,) using the winning oils of the 2018 Jaén Selección competition followed the documentary’s acclaimed première in San Sebastián.

Presentations at other international film festivals are anticipated, particularly in those with culinary film sections. Berlin, Buenos Aires, China, Japan or Sofia are some festivals which have expressed an interest for “Jaén, Virgin & Extra,” whose debut in Spain is slated for next November.

Other gastronomic and cultural forums may also become screens for the documentary’s exhibition.