Every now and then, a documentary comes along that, through a narrative specificity and an evolution of its subjects into characters, makes you to forget whether you’re watching a documentary at all. Such is the way “The Truffle Hunters” plays as it slowly lifts the veil on the highly revered and closely protected process of hunting for the world’s most expensive food. Watch the trailer above.
Co-directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, the film follows a group of Italian men, mostly in their 70s and 80s, as they navigate the changing landscape of truffle hunting. One man angrily types a letter to his peers explaining that the greed of others has led him to refuse to hunt any longer; another battles his wife who wants him, at the very least, to stop hunting at night; and a third refuses to reveal to a younger man the location of the woods he hunts in, as this is a secret so closely kept by truffle hunters that he says he wouldn’t even tell his own child if he had one. Throughout the film, the men reveal the frustrations with the changing game of hunting truffles as climate change reduces the amount there is to find, and that scarcity breeds a more competitive and less rule-driven market for buying and selling them.
In many ways, the film is a revelation of the secret yet locally cherished lives these men live. In that regard, it is reminiscent of last year’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Honeyland” and past nominee “Finding Vivian Maier” (2013). Tender stories of lives untold such as these typically find their strongest support among critics and documentary-focused groups. Both were nominated for prizes by Cinema Eye Honors and the International Documentary Association — a path that “The Truffle Hunters” could very well repeat.
As directors, Dweck and Kershaw will be new names to most of the audience. “The Truffle Hunters” is Dweck’s second film, following “Last Race” in 2018. Kershaw worked on that film with Dweck as well, but as writer and cinematographer, making this his directorial debut. But for anyone unfamiliar with their work, they may be drawn in by the name of one of the film’s executive producers, Luca Guadagnino.