Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

New Documentary Shows the Relationship Between Italian Truffle Hunters and Their Dogs

News Food + Drink Entertainment Documentaries
by Elisabeth Sherman Mar 11, 2021

The Truffle Hunters movie trailer opens with a stunning shot of a hillside in the Italian country at sunset. It’s the sort of scenery that makes people who aren’t there wish they could magically transport themselves. A woman is calling for “Carlo” as dogs bark in the background — packs of barking dogs followed by their adoring owners is a common theme throughout. This is the backdrop for a film, directed by Gregory Kershaw and Michael Dweck, that follows the masters of a legendary profession as they hunt for the elusive, and expensive, Alba white truffle.

Truffles, technically an underground dwelling fungus, are notoriously difficult to find. Hence the need for a dog (or sometimes a pig) to track them down and identify the random patch of dirt where they might be hiding. These dogs are the main character of the trailer: In one scene, an especially attentive truffle hunter blow-dries his dog in a pink bathtub, in another a man and his dog lounge happily under a tree. Alba white truffles can sell for thousands of dollars, but that seems like a minor concern for these guys, who would rather hang out with their dogs than concern themselves with money. I don’t really blame them.

Judging from the trailer, one of the themes of the movie seems to be a somewhat romanticized vision of Italy in which old men from picturesque villages, wearing vests and rain boots, tromp through the forest with their beloved pets, thinking very little about capitalism or the outside world. Though some shots from the trailer seem to hint at what happens to the truffles after the hunters dig them up — spoiler: they are sniffed repeatedly by experts and admirers at expositions — the movie seems to focus mostly on the relationship between man and dog.

The film sets up a striking contrast between the wealthy experts in suits assessing these culinary treasures, and the men who are responsible for finding them. On the one side, there is the epitome of consumerism. On the other are the truffle hunters, for whom the truffles themselves seem to be almost secondary. Their story is really about capturing the last days of a profession that might be dying out, an ode to the people who find joy wandering the land near their homes with their pets in tow. That’s an aspirational way of life if there ever was one.

The Truffle Hunters is now playing in select cities.

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