Jascha de Wilde and Ben Hendriks’ Mad About Truffles, selected for Docs for Sale, illustrates the passions evoked by the most sought-after of culinary delicacies.
The documentary is located in Provence, in the South of France, where the desire to eat the edible fungus is matched only by a desire to share it. The film also illustrates the differing mind-sets of those who believe that wild truffle is fair game for poaching, and landowners who refuse to allow pickers anywhere near the private forests where the substance thrives.
“In Provence there is real truffle mania, people are mad about it,” comments co-director de Wilde. “It is very deep in their culture. And it’s a hidden world, a secret world.”
The film was a genuine journey of discovery for De Wilde, as it will be for audiences. Who would have known that the elusive black truffle (aka the black diamond), which the director claims passes hands at €1200 per kilo, flourishes in the roots of oak trees.
Which is why oaks are systematically planted for eventual truffle harvests up to 10 years in the future. “There is,” De Wilde notes, “a symbiosis between the sophisticated truffle and the humble oak.’
Another fascinating fact in the film is that the truffle hunters she follows don’t use pigs to locate the edible gold.
“They use the old fashioned method of looking for flies that are attracted to the truffles. This process can takes hours and you need a lot of patience, but it is a kind of mindfulness. You spot a fly and how it is moving above the ground, and then you start to dig, and then you may find a truffle.”
“Sometimes when there are lots truffles and lots of flies it’s like a firework display of insects,” comments De Wilde. Also, alas, because of climate change, the truffles are disappearing. The summers in Provence are becoming too dry, the director points out.
Not yet complete, the project is produced by Amsterdam-based Pieter van Huijstee Film and co-produced with Second Skin Film. It will be released in the Netherlands by Mokum Film Distribution. In the meantime De Wilde is looking to whet the appetite of international buyers at IDFA for pre-sales to help raise the final finance for sound and music, and to complete the edit.