Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, seventy or eighty years old, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle-which to date has resisted all of modern science’s efforts at cultivation.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure to visit Italy will know that they are a group of people who adore their food, both in terms of cultivating it, cooking it and ultimately eating it. Truffles may not be as well known across the world as the likes of pizza and pasta, but they almost represent the ultimate in capturing the Italian relationship with food. They cannot be grown or made and they are not readily available; to find them requires trekking deep into the forests of Northern Italy and digging for them amongst the dirt and the undergrowth. It’s the most manual of manual tasks and requires a huge amount of effort to uncover just a small amount of these incredibly tasting and smelling fungus. That is the basis of ‘The Truffle Hunters’, a documentary that depicts the lives of a group of ageing men who spend their days (and nights) hunting for the most prized truffle of all, the Alba truffle.
This is a documentary that will mostly appeal to food lovers, but I think there’s a lot to enjoy here even if you’re not in its depiction of a slower, more old fashioned way of life. It follows a small group of truffle hunters who head out day after day with their dogs to find what they can to sell on to the various sellers who represent restaurants across the country. Truffles can fetch an incredibly good price and it makes the effort worthwhile for these men, but this is also what they know and what they do and there’s a sweet storyline that unfolds between one of the hunters and his wife, who is desperate for him to stop. It feels like a capsule of a time out of place, where old traditions come to the fore – it’s deep in the countryside of Piedmont in Northern Italy and it seems very far removed from modern life (and the restaurants where the truffles they uncover will be sold).
I was a massive fan of this documentary and enjoyed the time we spent with these men and their dogs, whilst finding much to meditate on in the way the filmmakers explored how the challenges of supply and demand and market forces start to impact on the way of life that these men lead. It doesn’t appear to have a streaming release in the UK yet (thank god for Filmhouse being back open!), but definitely worth checking ‘The Truffle Hunters‘ out when it does.
Directed By: Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw