By C.J. Hirschfield
You may assume that the stars in this delectable new documentary feature are human; and some of them are. But when you experience an exhilarating dog’s eye-view of a hunt to find the rare and wondrous fungus and hear the excited snuffling sounds of success, you understand that there would be no truffle hunt without some very canny canines. Both they—and the aromatic white Alba truffles they hunt—are worth their weight in gold.
In addition to teaching us about the art of hunting one of the most expensive foods on the planet, the film is a love letter to the slow-paced, non-tech life that’s lived surrounding secret forests in Italy, and to some of the locals–eccentric old men who are living simple lives, but with much meaning and joy.
Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw share the director/cinematographer/producer credit on THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS and succeed in not only showing us a bucolic way of life, but also the factors that are at play that are transforming both the people and the land.
Let’s start, though, with the way of life. On one hand, we see the passions and idiosyncrasies of the human truffle hunters, and it’s a joy. They sing and dance, play music at whim, drink wine, adore their dog companions and delight in the chase, just as generations that have come before. We don’t see a one of them eating shaved truffles. The juxtaposition between their lives and those of truffle buyers and judges at a posh trufflefest is dramatic, and underscores the high stakes business nature of the commodity.
But all is not well in Truffleville. Supply is dwindling, demand is growing, and too many people are hunting. The result? It’s gnarly, just like the fungus itself, and driven by greed. For the hunters, relaxing time in nature with their beloved dogs has now become an experience that includes dog poisonings, trespassing and tire punctures. When offered an outrageous sum of money for his prized (and cherished) truffle- hunting dog, one 80-something hunter responds by questioning how much the potential buyer would take for his own children.
Truffles elude domestication, just like a few of our septuagenarian and octogenarian hunters, including a former acrobat who boasts about turning down 50 wedding proposals, and a husband who defies his wife by sneaking out the window for night hunting.
A lovely scene has a local priest assuring one of our aging hunters that he will be able to continue his truffle pursuits in the next life, which makes him happy to hear. Us, too.
Like the homely fungus that drives the action in this film, THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS is a prized delicacy.
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS is opening exclusively in selected theaters in March. Check here to find out where you can see it.
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS is a Sony Pictures Classics release, runs 84 minutes, and is rated PG-13 by MPAA.
Visit the Official Website.
To see more photos.
Directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw discuss dog cams and documenting the delicious with POV Magazine.
A Q&A at the Toronto Film Festival:
Listen to Scott Simon in discussion with the directors on NPR.
A Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival:
An interview with a Truffle Hunter: