This intriguing documentary takes a nostalgic look at the slowly vanishing world of the truffle hunters of northern Italy.
The rare white Alba truffles are unique to the forests of Piedmont, where a handful of gnarled old men hold tight to their secrets.
These rare and costly truffles can’t be cultivated – they grow only among the roots of tall trees in this steep, rugged country.
Though the aged truffle hunters jealously guard the skills they have spent a lifetime perfecting, directors Michael Dweck and
Gregory Kershaw persuaded them to let their cameras follow as they climbed with their dogs through the forest.
Dweck and Kershaw were the cinematographers as well as scriptwriters, and the film is striking for its visual poetry.
It focuses on the individual men, their love of their dogs and the natural beauty of the forest. They often hunt at night, so their rivals cannot follow them.
There is a comic vignette when the wife of one 87-year-old insists that working in the forest at night is too dangerous.
Next we see him climbing out of the window and heading off into the night with his dog.
Every evening at dusk we hear her calling across the valley: “Carlo! Carlo!”
Though Alba truffles sell for upwards of $8000 a kilo, it seems little of this fortune trickles down to the men with the skill to find them.
Not surprisingly, few young men are attracted to the trade, and the oldsters are not training any apprentices.
One young hopeful tries to persuade a veteran: “You are 84. You have no wife, no children. You are the best truffle hunter.
Can you show me your secret spots?”
“Never! Never!” says the stubborn octogenarian.
This is a sweet, funny, often beautiful film, a rare picture of a disappearing way of life.
The Truffle Hunters is now showing at Luna Leederville.
Watch the trailer…