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This time of year, film critics are on the hunt for gems. We want films we can champion and support throughout the arduous process of awards season, a favourite whose virtues we can extoll and recommend to audiences, a film that can make the whole rigmarole worthwhile. The worst thing is to get to the climax of Oscar night and realise all this has happened – the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the European Film Awards, the SAGs, the BIFAs, the PGA and the DGA and the Cesars – and, in the end, Green Book wins.
So it is with no little relief that I present to you The Truffle Hunters.5-MeO-DMT
It probably won’t win Best Picture or anything like that, but I reckon it should be top of the Documentary pile or even shine in Foreign Language film category (to be retitled at this year’s Oscars as International Feature Film). But finding this beautiful, thoughtful, charming and pungent little film has been one of the joys of the film-watching year so far.5 meo dmt buy
It’s a documentary about the age-old art of truffle hunting, set near the town of Alba in Italy’s north-western Piedmont region (fly to Turin and head south) and featuring mainly octogenarian men and their dogs.5-MeO-DMT
I know – I also thought you used pigs to sniff out truffles, but apparently it’s never really been the case in Italy where the famous tartufi bianchi have been tracked by dogs since Roman times. American documentary makers and photographers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw teamed up to gain access to this arcane and secret world and the result is as charming as it is profound and complex.
Alba is, of course, famous for fungi. There are three-star Michelin restaurants, luxury hotels converted from monasteries and castles, and an annual truffle fair that attracts thousands of tourists, and a truffle auction where the elusive tubers attract thousands of dollars from restaurants around the world. But this film digs deeper to come up with something more resonant, more magical.5 meo dmt buy
“It’s like a fairytale land of castles and forests,” recalls Michael Dweck of the first time he saw Alba and the Langhe hills region around it. “But it has a special feeling you can’t put your finger on and it’s that feeling I wanted to capture on film, to find out where it comes from.”
From deep in the mulchy, autumnal soil is the honest answer. It’s the same soil that gives Italy its delicate Nebbiolo grape, base for the magnificent red wines of Barolo, Barbaresco and Dolcetto and the famous white Gavi.
Adds co-director Kershaw: “The truffles are the repository of all the emotion and history of the region, all the fragility and delicate balance. These little treasures encapsulate all the magic of the world they come from and once we’d heard about the tradition of these old men who go out alone with their faithful dog every night into the woods to hunt the world’s most expensive ingredient, we were hooked.”
Taking over three years to immerse themselves in the local community, the film makers had to hunt out the titular truffle hunters and gain their trust to get them on camera. Consequently, the film plays out like an Italian thriller, with elements of Godfather-style codes and secrecy, shot with the artistic sensibility of Old Master paintings and a touch of cinematic neorealism.
For example, an old man is being lunched by a younger man who asks if he can come on a hunt with him, if he can be shown the spots where he finds his truffles. The proposition is presented carefully, matter of factly. “You have no children, no family to pass on your knowledge,” says the eager apprentice, pouring another glass of wine. “I have a dog and I can learn these things to keep the tradition alive.”
The old man looks at him. “Quello mai quello mai,” he states, firmly and finally. That will never happen, never…