Magnificent Beast

Why is pork a forbidden food for Jews and Muslims? In a search for the historical roots of the pig taboo, the filmmakers travel around the world interviewing archaeologists, religious scholars, hunters and pet pig owners. Their journey reveals the many ways this intelligent and complex animal has found its way into religious scripture, onto our dinner tables, and even into our homes.

  • Tess Gerritsen
    Island Zero
  • Josh Gerritsen
    Island Zero
  • Tess Gerritsen
    Island Zero
  • Josh Gerritsen
    Island Zero
  • Clayton Worbeck
    Island Zero, 40 and Single, Like Cotton Twines
  • Hanji Chang
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 1, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital 4K
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Tess Gerritsen, Josh Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen is an internationally bestselling thriller author whose 28 novels include the Rizzoli and Isles crime novels, on which the hit TNT television series “Rizzoli & Isles” was based. She is also a screenwriter (“Adrift,” and “Island Zero.”) Her books are translated into 40 languages and more than 30 million copies have been sold. “Magnificent Beast” is her second collaboration with her son Josh.

Josh Gerritsen spent his childhood making short films, but focused on portrait photography for the first part of his career. After spending half a decade in New York, he moved back to Maine to start an organic farm. He and Tess collaborated on “Island Zero”, which he directed. His experience raising pigs for meat was part of the inspiration for “Magnificent Beast”.

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Director Statement

As a Chinese-American, I was raised in an adventurous culinary culture where no food is off-limits. From chicken feet to stinky tofu, the Chinese will consume it all. Food taboos have always puzzled me -- in particular, the Jewish taboo against pork. Why did a meat celebrated by so many cultures become forbidden by others? What were the religious, cultural, and perhaps medical roots of this taboo?

The answer, we discovered, is far more complex than we ever imagined. The deeper we dug into the question, the more we realized the answer lies in the essential nature of this highly intelligent (some would call it subversive) animal. Humans and pigs share centuries of entwined history, a history that is both fraught and complicated. We’ve killed and feasted on pigs; they’ve killed and feasted on us. We’ve revered them and despised them, mistreated them and taken them into our homes as family members. No other animal has had such a strange and paradoxical relationship with us.

Magnificent Beast is a journey into both our history as well as the pig’s, a history of conflict as well as mutual dependence that continues even today.