`'El Olivo' Depicts the Bond Between a Spanish Family and Their Olive Tree - Olive Oil Times

'El Olivo' Depicts the Bond Between a Spanish Family and Their Olive Tree

Mar. 23, 2016
Alexis Kerner

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The first thing an olive pro­ducer might tell you is the num­ber of gen­er­a­tions that his or her fam­ily has farmed their estate, and the age of their old­est tree. Most pro­duc­ers also admit that they are in the busi­ness for rea­sons more impor­tant than mak­ing money. For many Spaniards, an olive tree rep­re­sents not just fruit, oil and wood; it is their roots, her­itage and part of their soul. It is also over 2,000-years of his­tory that many are strug­gling to con­tinue.

However, when lux­ury land­scap­ers and large com­pa­nies offer 12,000, 15,000 or even 30,000 euros for a thou­sand-year-old tree, it can be dif­fi­cult to refuse. There are mouths to feed and bills to pay.

Screenwriter, Paul Leverty, and film direc­tor, Icíar Bollaín, tap into this mod­ern day dilemma in El Olivo” (The Olive Tree), to be released in Spanish the­aters on May 6th.

The film shares the emo­tional story of a fam­ily from Castellón that is con­fronted with eco­nomic dif­fi­culty and decides to leave the olive oil busi­ness to start a poul­try farm. When the fam­ily opts to also sell their 2,000-year-old olive tree to a German energy com­pany, the grand­fa­ther retorts that the olive tree is his life. To uproot the tree is akin to tak­ing away his life. Despite his plea, the tree is shipped off to Dusseldorf and the grand­fa­ther stops speak­ing and eat­ing.

Twelve years later, his 20-year old grand­daugh­ter, Alma (which trans­lates to soul” in Spanish), decides that she must get the tree back to save her grand­fa­ther. It takes her deter­mi­na­tion along with the help of her uncle, co-worker, friends and the entire Spanish vil­lage to find the tree.

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In an inter­view on RTVE (Spanish Radio and Television Corporation), the direc­tor, Icíar Bollaín, dis­cussed the film. She admit­ted that cast­ing the per­fect olive farmer was not easy. There are not many actors that have the hands and face of a man that has worked olive groves his entire life. However, as soon as she spot­ted olive farmer, Manuel Cuccala, get­ting off of his trac­tor one day, she said, That’s him.” Cuccala had lit­tle act­ing expe­ri­ence. However, Bollaín noted, He didn’t have any prob­lem in iden­ti­fy­ing with the char­ac­ter. There is a scene where they say that they must sell the olive tree and he gets very emo­tional because he really does have a tree that he could never part with.”

In the inter­view the direc­tor also explains that it was not easy to cre­ate the scene where the tree is uprooted. Of course they could not uproot a real tree as it would go against what the film stood for. The only solu­tion was to con­struct a replica of the tree, a process that took six months.

Bollaín points out that the film’s con­cept can be extrap­o­lated to many present-day sit­u­a­tions in Spain. She went on to say that Spaniards must care for and value their com­mu­ni­ties, her­itage and land­scapes. These three things, in the end, are the Spanish peo­ple. In car­ing for them, we care for our­selves.

Catalonia and Valencia have already begun var­i­ous ini­tia­tives, both grass­roots and legal, work­ing towards sav­ing age-old olive trees. There is a grow­ing effort around Spain, espe­cially in Andalusia, to cel­e­brate the her­itage and his­tory of olive cul­ture.

With the release of El Olivo,” on May 6, Spanish as well as inter­na­tional audi­ences could become more aware of the invalu­able legacy that was planted by Roman hands and remains deeply rooted in Spanish soil.


El Olivo

Production com­pany: Morena Films, The Match Factory, El Olivo la Pelicula

Cast: Javier Gutierrez, Anna Castillo, Pep Ambros, Manuel Cucala, Miguel Angel Aladren

Director: Iciar Bollain

Screenwriter: Paul Laverty



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