By Dulcie Pearce
The Truffle Hunters
TRUFFLES are described as being a little nutty, deep, sweet and very rare.
Which is exactly how I’d describe this documentary about the secret community of truffle hunters who jealously guard their knowledge of where the fungi is found.
The hunters are old Italian men who have spent their long lives clambering the mountains and forests to find the delicious and highly expensive food.
Their existence is otherworldly and off the grid — they use broken typewriters, eat from the fields and appear to have not a single mobile phone between them.
The four men focused on are aged between 60 and 85, and live in small rural villages in the Piedmont area of Italy.
Their entire existence is searching for truffles. During this quiet, idyllic documentary, directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, we also see their other obsession — the dogs that help them.
SING TO THEIR DOGS
Their relationship with their working dogs is a thing of beauty. They get their canine helpers blessed in church by an enthusiastic priest, light candles on a cake for their birthday, bathe with them and sing to them.
It may seem eccentric but it’s also understandable. These dogs are their constant companions — and they trust them with their livelihoods.
One 88-year-old, Carlo, insists on going out at night while his wife, who is both concerned and furious, shouts through the village trying to find him and bring him back.
There are many touches of humour, like in one scene at a truffle auction where buyers queue for ages to walk by the strange-looking fungi and bend to smell it, making it appear like a religious ritual. The directors spent three years getting to know their subjects and getting involved in their private world, and you can tell the truffle hunters are comfortable in front of the camera.
But they insist on taking their truffle-seeking skills to the grave. During a dinner with a friend, a childless, wifeless 84-year-old is asked to pass on his secrets of where he hunts and how.
He refuses. “If you had a child, you’d tell them,” the friend states.
“No, I would not!” the man exclaims. And he means it.
The Truffle Hunters is slow but idyllic, with each shot looking like it could be framed and put on the wall of a photography exhibition.
It really is a gem