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Digging for Culinary Gold: A TIFF Review of ‘The Truffle Hunters’

September 16, 2020Ben MK

Watching two men negotiate over thousands of euros worth of product in a dark alleyway may seem like the makings of a drug deal, but as we see in The Truffle Hunters, it's anything but. And as directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw show in this quirky documentary about the age-old industry built around one of nature's most elusive culinary delights, that's just the beginning.

Produced by Luca Guadagdino, the film tells the story of Northern Italy's real-life truffle hunters, a colorful group of grizzled senior citizens and their truffle-sniffing dogs who are so good at what they do that clients like Gianfranco Curti pay upwards of 150 euros for a mere 100 grams of their findings. Some of these men, like 84-year-old Aurelio Conterno, just want to find someone to take care fo their dogs after they pass; while others, like 87-year-old Carlo Gonella, have to sneak past their wives every night in order to hunt by moonlight. What these men all share in common, however, is a very specific set of skills. And in a year when truffles are becoming more and more hard to come by, it's no wonder that the low supply-demand ratio has led to increased interest in the profession.

The result is a leisurely look at a bygone way of life that has somehow still managed to find a place in our modern world. But just as truffles themselves are an acquired taste, so too is this movie. Suffice to say, viewers expecting a more conventional documentary might be left wanting; but for those with more discerning tastes, The Truffle Hunters proves to be quite the connoisseur's treat.

The Truffle Hunters screens under the Special Events programme at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 24 min.

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