Alba’s white truffle, a coveted ingredient that fetches $ 4,000 a pound on the gourmet market, is a treasure found only by a breed of dying hunters and their dogs in the forests of Piedmont, Italy.
Finding the mushroom, which loses its precious aroma in a week, is the livelihood of a small group of 80-90 years captured in a documentary. Truffle hunters, bound for theaters on Friday.
“It’s kind of a really unique fairytale community that doesn’t seem like a part of this modern world in many ways,” said Michael Dweck, the film’s co-director.
In shots that resemble paintings by Italian masters, truffle hunters roam the woods with their dogs, who are trained for four years to dig for culinary gold among the roots of tall oak trees.
The truffles, which look like small rocks, are tested and traded to buyers and sellers in an industry that has a forecasted annual value that will grow to nearly $ 6 billion globally over the next two decades. Farmers have tried to grow them, with limited success.
The film grew out of separate visits to Piedmont from Dweck and co-director Gregory Kershaw, who fell in love with her beauty.
When they learned about the historic industry, they barricaded themselves among the locals before filming for three years.
“What was so remarkable to us was how rich their lives felt, the joy they had and it seemed like they had clung to this wisdom” of having a relationship with nature, Kershaw said.
While the locals speak Italian, they prefer the Piedmontese dialect, which some argue is a separate language.
“It’s not just words, it contains the culture, it contains the history of the region,” Kershaw said. “There is a kind of combativeness in the embedded language, and therefore when they started speaking in that language, a different part emerged.”
Filmmakers often set up a camera with the subjects in the shot and leave it on for hours, allowing the story to unfold.
“Each of them looked a lot like a Renaissance painting,” Dweck said. “We loved this place and we wanted to spend as much time as we could and then once we realized that there was so much mystery and charm in this world, we decided to just film it.”