A love letter to a rapidly vanishing world: this gentle documentary follows a handful of elderly men who, with their beloved dogs, comb the forests of Northern Italy on the hunt for a rare culinary delicacy.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
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This sweet and poignant documentary is a feast for both eyes and soul. Co-directors and cinematographers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw (who collaborated on 2018’s The Last Race) spent three years making the film, much of it simply tracking the reclusive foragers down.
Everything is a secret in the world of truffle hunting, including who the truffle hunters are, Kershaw promises – and that same patience is extended to the filmmaking itself. Their long, lingering, beautifully lit shots of the Italian landscape feel like a Caravaggio painting come to life, and they often leave a camera running for hours in the homes of the film’s eccentric elderly protagonists, allowing intimate moments of the men’s lives to be captured: 84-yearold Aurelio feeding his beloved dog Birba from his plate, or 68-year-old Sergio sharing a bath with pup Fiona.
As the film unfolds, it’s clear that although demand for the fragrant fungi is ever-escalating, the traditional titular practice is under siege on every front: from deforestation, from climate change and from the poachers who recognise no property lines and resort to puncturing tyres or setting poison bait to kill rivals’ dogs.
“People are greedy. They know nothing about the forest and they want to plunder it,” says 78-year-old Angelo, a former circus acrobat. As much a meditation on life and on our relationship with nature (and with dogs!), as it is an insight into this rapidly vanishing world, The Truffle Hunters is a rare treat worth savouring. — Jo McCarroll