The truffle is a culinary obsession. The edible fungi that grow near tree roots can range in size from that of a strawberry to an apple. They are treasured by epicures for their aromas and flavours, which elicit descriptions similar to those used by wine connoisseurs. The most coveted truffles can fetch astronomical prices at auction. Tracking them down in the forest is both an art and a science practiced in partnerships between humans and dogs.
Filmmakers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw take us into the timeless world of specialists in Northern Italy’s Piedmont region famed for its white truffles — particularly the elusive Alba truffle. In these landscapes of natural beauty, the rhythms of life operate at a different pace than in the city. We meet an assortment of hunters who work independently from each other in an endeavour marked by eccentricity, pride, and competition. The film concentrates on an elderly generation of men including Birba, Carlo, and Sergio, who each have special relationships with their canine companions.
Even if you’ve never tasted a truffle, the passion of these experts is irresistible. We also gain insight to the elaborate marketplace that supplies truffles to elite restaurants. The film has a gentle humour, yet it takes time to reflect on the serious concerns of the climate crisis and deforestation that threaten the future of truffle hunting. By the film’s end, your appetite will be awakened not only for what you eat but also to appreciate where it comes from.
The 45th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 10 to 19, 2020. For more, visit http://tiff.net.