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TIFF 2020 Review: The Truffle Hunters

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Truffles are a prized commodity in the culinary world and entire industry has been built around finding and procuring them.

Having the physical ability to travel through rugged terrain and having access to canines that have a keen sense of smell are key ingredients for a successful truffle hunter.  The competition is tough and the profitability varies according to the growing conditions.  Trespassing takes place, loyalties are tested and dogs are fatally poisoned.  Despite this sounding like a potential thriller, filmmakers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw have crafted a character study of the people involved in finding, brokering, and consuming truffles.

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The most interesting onscreen personalities are the three active and one retired truffle hunters; they have a parental relationship with a critical business partner – their dogs and lots of stories to tell.  Less engaging are the brokers though there is a touching scene with one having dinner with his young daughter and talking about what he does for a living.  Composition is critical with each frame feeling like surreal painting with the whimsical tone enhanced with the occasional accordion music.  Some of the visuals are absurd in their own way such as a truffle being placed wine glasses and being smelled as if by a sommelier.

There is something magical about being able to find an edible fungi about the size of strawberry or apple deep within a forest.  The younger generation does not seem to be drawn to profession but it is hard to give up the thrill of the hunt even when reaching the age of an octogenarian; this leads to the mischievous closing shot.  The stylized composition chosen by Dweck and Kershaw enhances the storytelling.  The only jarring choice is utilizing the camera footage taken from the canine point of view which is intriguing to witness but also so outplace with the rest of the documentary.  Overall, The Truffle Hunters is a charming tribute to a culinary institution.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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