By Lynn Venhaus
The rare white Alba truffle demands top dollar on the international market, from hundreds of dollars to over a thousand. The golden tuber is known for its pungent aroma and earthy flavor, and diners enjoy it shaved over pasta, risotto, eggs and meat. It has a short growing season of only a few months a year, and the forests of Italy are the premier location for hunting this delicacy.

Nowadays, there is an art to foraging for them, as the truffle has resisted modern science’s effort at cultivation. Expertly trained dogs join a rare breed – aging truffle hunters whose

Their secret culture is the subject of a fascinating documentary.

The elusive white truffle’s journey from the forest to the table is an interesting subject in the unusual Italian documentary “The Truffle Hunters.”

Eccentric elderly men, often in their 70s and 80s, are obsessed with the lucrative truffle hunt — so much so that they are unwilling to share the tricks of the trade, passed down from generations, with younger men who want to follow in their footsteps. Therefore, these Italian professionals are a dying breed.

Directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw provide vivid portraits of four of these men  — Carlo, Aurelio, Sergio and Angelo, characters all — and their beloved dogs living a simple life in Piedmont, Italy. It may look like something out of the Brothers Grimm, but these gruff, competitive men are not fairy tale characters.

 Nor do they assimilate in the 21st century with tech-savvy knowledge.And some would just prefer to be left alone, with the trusty companion, nevertheless.

While truffle hunting is a way of life they have mastered, it is not without its challenges. Climate change and deforestation have caused problems with a decreased supply at harvest time.

Dweck and Kershaw, who recently won the Directors Guild of America award for directing a feature documentary, bring out all the quirkiness of these hunters and show the affectionate bond between the men and their dogs.

The cinematography is another outstanding element, and Dweck and Kershaw won the American Society of Cinematographers award for best documentary.

If you are a dog lover, this movie needs to go on your watch list. If you are like me and enjoy learning about something you never paid much attention to, “The Truffle Hunters” is worth 90 minutes of your time as a snappy homage to these guys who take obvious pride in their work.

At only an hour and 24 minutes, this film is a snappy homage to these guys who take obvious pride in their work.
“The Truffle Hunters” is an international feature documentary, in Italian with subtitles, directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw. It’s rated PG-13 for strong language and runs 1 hour, 24 minutes. In theatres. Locally, at the Hi-Pointe Back Lot on April 23. Lynn’s Grade: A-.