Set in the beautiful forests of Piedmont, Northern Italy, is award-winning filmmaker and visual artist Michael Dweck’s latest exploration of an archaic way of life. Teaming up once again with renowned environmental documentary producer Gregory Kershaw, is the pair’s latest film, The Truffle Hunters.
The documentary does not attempt to glorify the Alba-truffle hunting way of life. In many ways the life of these aging men is arduous, repetitious, and labour intensive; yet at the same time their community is tight knit, respectful of others, and importantly, harmonious. Or rather, their lives were this way, prior to modernisation.
The changing landscape of their world is the new generation in which greed reigns, and former societal rules are ignored. We see the cunning business negotiations where the son of a well-respected deceased hunter no longer respects his father’s peers.
This dealer is depicted in scenes in the dark alleys of night, buying an alba truffle and trying to drive down the price from these hard-working men; the very next day he is talking the truffles up to a prospective buyer. Later in the film we discover he hasn’t even tasted a truffle, they are not his passion, they are only a commodity to be sold.
This is in stark contrast to Truffle Hunter Carlo, who talks about the taste of an Alba truffle as if it is the most delectable flavour in the world. For him and his fellow hunters, an Alba truffle is a prize won; the labour justifies the outcome. They are not just an article of trade.
Dogs are similarly revered. At one point in the film, when Truffle Hunter Aurelio realises that his beloved hunting dog Birba is viewed by the next generation purely as a commodity, he says to Birba, ‘I will find you a wild woman. There are some good ones but they’re rare. I will leave her the house, and she will take care of you’. He senses that she will be easily manipulated by the next generation of hunters.
Equally, when a younger hunter pressures Aurelio to reveal his hunting secrets to him ‘for the sake of tradition’, (he has no wife and no family), he flatly refuses. He is not alone in his reflections, neighbouring Truffle Hunter Angelo has quit foraging altogether, and multiple scenes show him refusing to pass on his knowledge or get back in the trade. Does the older generation have an obligation to pass on traditions?
Nominated for the 2021 Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature.
The Truffle Hunters opens on February 18th