“The Truffle Hunters” is a near-perfect documentary film for those who love Italian cuisine and dogs. This delightful film is like a story book that captures the lost art of foraging for the prized white Alba truffle, a clandestine affair that’s done by a select few octogenarian men and their beloved canine companions.
Northern Italy is covered in forests, and it’s the perfect place to search for elusive truffles. Some of the wealthiest people in the world are obsessed with purchasing the perfect specimen, and they’ll pay top dollar to acquire it. Many try and fail to find truffles with modern technology and methods, but it’s the local villagers who are talented at unearthing the culinary treasures with nothing more than a flashlight and a dog by their side.
The film reveals an unprecedented look at truffle hunting, which is shrouded in much secrecy. The reclusive old men do everything to keep their hunting grounds private, and the buyers are equally tight-lipped for fear of others honing in on their supply. Several of the hush-hush truffle sales take place under the cover of night in small alleyways, just like it’s an illegal drug deal.
Directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw bring an artfulness to the story, choosing to let their camera study the subjects as they go about their daily lives. The film is crafted in a way that’s very entertaining and charming from the opening frame, escaping the dry fate that befalls many documentary films. It’s educational and eye-opening, and transports viewers to a world most of us would never otherwise see. This is a real slice of Italia, featuring subjects with larger than life personalities that you want to get to know and spend time with, even if it means sitting in silence while watching them sort fresh tomatoes at their kitchen table or petting their faithful companion animals. This observational approach versus the standard talking head documentary really puts you right into the lives of these people, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
Even if you don’t like to eat the highly sought after culinary delicacy (I gag at the mere smell), you will find much to enjoy about “The Truffle Hunters.” The documentary celebrates a group of old timers who love what they do and are fantastic at doing it. Italians are inherently delightful and truly understand the “gioia della vita,” which is perfectly captured in this gem of a film.