DOCUMENTARY; 1hr 24min (Italian with subtitles)
DIRECTED BY: Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw
Doggone: Aurelio and Birba kick back
The forests of Piedmont in northern Italy are a magical sweep through which spryly intrepid truffle hunters and their nippy, canny, irresistible dogs scramble and burrow in a time-honed search for holy-grail Alba white truffles like crack detectives on a make-break case. Their turf is silent and timeless, picturesquely carpeted with faded drifts of leaves, but the lumpen, aromatic moon rocks that are its bounty couldn’t be more closely tethered to today’s high-stakes commerce. Sold by the gram for up to thousands of Euros, the Alba truffle is an elite gourmet delicacy whose rarity and resistance to scientific cultivation only fatten its paradoxical purse.
Co-directors Dweck and Kershaw take the leisurely, episodic road with their offbeat sleuths, gently observing Aurelio, Carlo, Angelo, Sergio et al without notation or comment as they go about the logistically challenging business of hunting, gathering and selling in an evermore unpredictable climate. (Angelo is the voluble exception to this rule, having retired from soil divining in a rage at the corrupt greed of interlopers.)
The gentlemen are all a joy, but the two standouts are 87-year-old Carlo, who sneaks out to hunt by night to the indignation of his stupendously disapproving wife, and 84-year-old bachelor Aurelio, whose love for his piebald dog, Birba, is the sweetest bond you’ll see all year. “I don’t need a woman,” he tells her, as if she doesn’t already know. “I have Birba.”