Directed by: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw
Released: February 18, 2021
Grade: A

The Truffle Hunters

A movie about elderly men and their dogs searching for rare truffles in Northern Italy.  It doesn’t scream “box-office hit” but The Truffle Hunters is a fascinating documentary that premiered a year ago at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and recently made the shortlist (the top 15 films) for best documentary feature at the upcoming Academy Awards.  Many are tipping it will receive a coveted nomination.

The story of this secretive world will be of interest to many.  The white Alba truffle, found exclusively in Italy’s Piedmont region, is one of the expensive foods in the world with the market price often exceeding $10,000 AUD per kilogram!  It’s a classic case of supply and demand economics in that the price is high because supply is rare.  The truffles grow for just two months a year and, as they cannot be cultivated, they can only be found by experienced hunters foraging in little known forests.

The background to this documentary is as remarkable as the subject itself.  Filmmakers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw were travelling through Italy one summer when they first learned about truffle hunters.  It took them roughly 3 years to pull the film together with much of that time spent living in Alba, earning the trust of the guarded townsfolk, and getting them to share their stories.

The end result is simple yet beautiful.  There’s no unnecessary narration and no talking heads.  We’re just observing these characters, often from a distance, and listening in on their day-to-day exchanges.  Shots have been meticulously framed with a single, motionless camera capturing the conversations as if those involved are completely unaware.

The Truffle Hunters is the kind of documentary that fills your brain and lifts your spirits.  You’ll be shown a world you never knew existed and then want to tell your friends and family about it.  You’ll discover that truffle hunters do much of their work at night so rivals won’t learn of their treasured rummaging spots.  One of them is 87-years-old but he’s still as active and passionate as ever.  You’ll also learn about the unspoken truffle hunting rules and get a glimpse as the hunters negotiate prices with keen buyers.  This is a film you must see.

You can read my interview with director Gregory Kershaw by clicking here.