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-.

“The NBR is proud to honor ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ Spike Lee, and the film’s incredible ensemble cast, along with all of our 2020 awardees,” NBR president Annie Schulhof said in a statement.

“Lee is one of our greatest filmmakers, a bold auteur with a cinematic vision and an astute perspective on human relationships, focusing at times on that intersection between the personal and the political. ‘Da 5 Bloods’ is not only a unique portrait of the experience and lingering trauma of Black Vietnam War veterans, but also a moving story of enduring friendship, a suspenseful jungle treasure hunt, and a powerful reckoning with the American dream. We are also honored to present the posthumous NBR Icon Award to Chadwick Boseman, an extraordinary talent who represented the best of what an actor could be no matter what the role.”

The NBR was established in 1909 by theater owners protesting the New York mayor’s attempt to block the exhibition of motion pictures in the city.

According to The Wrap, In the 88 years it has been naming the year’s best film, it has agreed with the Oscars 22 times, though only once (“Green Book”) in the last 11 years.

The National Board of Review is not a critics’ organization. The group is made up of “knowledgeable film enthusiasts and professionals, academics, young filmmakers and students” in the New York area.

The Wrap said much of its relatively high profile comes from the fact that it is normally one of the first groups to pick the year’s best films — although in this year’s extended awards season, it made its choices well after the critics’ groups that adhered to calendar-year eligibility.

Like the Oscars and most guilds, the NBR allowed films to qualify this year as long as they were being released by Feb. 28, 2021.

Plans for an awards ceremony to celebrate 2020 winners will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the full list of winners below:

Best Film:  “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Director:  Spike Lee, “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Actor:  Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”

Best Actress:  Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Supporting Actor:  Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

Best Supporting Actress:  Youn Yuh-jung, “Minari”

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies, “News of the World”

Best Original Screenplay:  Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Breakthrough Performance:  Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

Best Directorial Debut:  Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth”

Best Animated Feature:  “Soul”

Best Foreign Language Film:  “La Llorona”

Best Documentary:  “Time”

NBR Icon Award:  Chadwick Boseman

NBR Freedom of Expression Award: “One Night in Miami”

NBR Spotlight Award: Radha Blank for writing, directing, producing and starring in “The Forty-Year-Old Version”

Best Ensemble:  “Da 5 Bloods”

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography:  Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”

Top Films (in alphabetical order):

First Cow
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Judas and the Black Messiah
The Midnight Sky
News of the World
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal

Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order):

Dear Comrades
The Mole Agent
Night of the Kings

Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order): 

All In: The Fight for Democracy
Boys State
Dick Johnson is Dead
Miss Americana
The Truffle Hunters

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order): 

The Climb
Farewell Amor
Miss Juneteenth
The Nest
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The Outpost
Saint Frances