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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
The rare white truffle is worth 4500 Euros per kilo. That’s one of the facts we learn from the
exquisite documentary The Truffle Hunters, which is a tribute to the elderly men who still
pursue the culinary delicacy as though they are panning for gold. In the northwest corner of
Italy, there are still forests with a sufficient number of oak trees for the white truffle to be
found. The octogenarian hunters from Piedmont, with the invaluable help of their beloved and
well-trained dogs, scour the woods day and night and each guards his secrets closely.
American filmmakers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw photographed and directed The
Truffle Hungers, a beguiling film. They clearly bonded with the intrepid hunters, who permitted
the filming not only on their hunting but also of the bargaining that inevitably goes on with the
middlemen who make a fortune selling the rare commodity to A-class restaurants in Europe and
elsewhere. One of the hunters we meet is Amelio. He lives alone with his dog, sharing his food
with the animal and talking to it as though it were human. He knows that his days are
numbered, and he worries about what will happen to his beloved friend when he is gone.
Another is Carlo, aged 87, who is married and constantly defies his wife who wants him to
retire; she especially doesn’t want him to go hunting at night, but he’s stubborn and defies her.
This is not a fly-on-the wall documentary in which a hand –held camera follows the actions of
the protagonists. On the contrary, one of the great strengths of the film is the pristine
cinematography. Scene after scene is lit and framed like a classical painting. To accomplish this,
the film-makers would have required a degree of rehearsal. Camera set-ups like those in the
film take time and effort to achieve the effect required. The seemingly “impromptu” discussions
that the directors have filmed were prepared to a certain extent. The truffle hunters and those
around them aren’t actors, of course, but they are articulate and confident. Not that this device
of staging the scenes matters one bit. The end result is quite marvellous.