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Documentaries that make us want to travel right now

Travel TV shows have been in short supply during the pandemic, but luckily there’s plenty of other visual entertainment to fuel our wanderlust. Whether you’re after inspiration for your next escape or crave immersion in the visual wonder of a foreign land, these documentaries are just the ticket


01/08/2021

Carlo, Sergio and Aurelio on the hunt for white Alba truffles

The Truffle Hunters

Italy

Picture this: a dwindling group of elderly men in rural Italy control a commodity worth more than gold: white Alba truffles. Impossible to cultivate, these fungi grow only in the lavish Langhe region of Piedmont, and every day a band of dedicated foragers ventures into the forests in search of the valuable tubers. This artfully framed documentary peeks behind the curtain of an incredibly private and precious pastime, introducing enigmatic characters such as Carlo, Sergio and Aurelio, who pursue their goal in the face of disapproving spouses, climate change and a worrying lack of protégés. Not only will the documentary have you frequently salivating but, with family spats, accordion playing, bizarre late night bellowing and that vital ingredient of any Italian film – tomatoes – you’ll also be pining for the remote, truffle-filled hills of northern Italy in no time.

Take off to Italy

Jody runs ‘the roof of the world’ in Tajikistan (Alex Mundt). Opening image: the unforgiving Bartang Valley 

Running the Roof

Tajikistan

Getting a little tipsy and making bad decisions is something many of us can relate to, but deciding to run a daily marathon for seven days straight in one of the planet’s most remote locations takes some beating. This is what happened to three friends Gabe, Jody and Jodie, keen runners who decided to document their self-imposed challenge across Tajikistan’s Bartang Valley. Dubbed ‘the roof of the world’ by locals, the valley in the Pamir mountain range is a dominating landscape of sharp peaks, rushing rivers and dry plains culminating at Lake Karakul. And, with temperatures that rocket in the day and plummet at night, it’s not a place for the faint-hearted. This charming 47-minute film neatly documents the trio’s undertaking, from acquiring injuries to playing football with local children and camping under the stars. Even if you’re not into running – or Tajikistan – the characters, landscapes and sheer ambition of the gang are invigorating, and will no doubt have you planning an adventure ASAP.

Running the Roof is available to watch online and in cinemas around the world as part of the Banff World Tour.

Take off to destinations around the world

Fran Lebowitz takes a ‘dip’ in the Hudson River 

Pretend It’s a City

New York

It might seem odd to suggest that watching someone complaining about a city would make you want to visit it, but that’s exactly the case with Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese’s latest Netflix series. Assembled from older and newer interviews with Scorsese’s lifelong friend Fran Lebowitz, the seven-episode show lays New York bare in all its complicated, imperfect glory, as the sardonic author passionately laments the woeful state of the subway, “young people” and the whole concept of Times Square. Her glorious dry wit belies a sincere love of The Big Apple that only a lifetime of living there can achieve. Packed with sharp witticisms and wry anecdotes (including one about being chased down the street by Charles Mingus), the documentary proves to be part destination guide, part history lesson, with a load of handy visitors’ tips hidden in between. Pretend It’s a City unashamedly reveals what’s to love and what’s to hate about NYC, and why it’s those very things that make it so irresistible.

Take off to New York

Pierre Gimonnet vineyard in Cuis, France

Sparkling: The Story of Champagne

France

Thought Champagne was invented in France? You’re not alone. This delightful documentary delves into the history of Anglo-French relations via the region’s beloved tipple with the teasing premise: what if the English really invented Champagne? Featuring all the weighty celebrity kudos you’d expect from such an expensive subject – Bollinger, Taittinger, Moët & Chandon, Jay Z’s Armand de Brignac and Brad Pitt’s Champagne Fleur de Miraval, not to mention English sparkling wine houses including Hattingley Valley and Bolney – it also boasts Mr Stephen Fry. Enjoy some high-end, only slightly fractious discourse set amid France’s most famous wineries before being transported through Kent’s rolling hills (where some of the French producers are now growing) and into the Queen’s own vineyard at Windsor Great Park. Whatever side of the debate you fall on by the time the credits roll, we’re confident you’ll be sold on a quick hop over the Channel to sip some bubbly in the sun.

Take off to France