CAMDEN — No other animal has had such a paradoxical relationship with humans as the pig. “Magnificent Beast” explores centuries of our entwined history with pigs as food, friend and foe. The hour-long film, produced by Camden-based Donkey Universe Films, travels from New York to New Mexico, Colorado to Cairo, New England to the United Kingdom, Florida, and Texas to talk to archaeologists, historians, farmers, chefs, hunters and pet owners, and discover the roots and results of the complicated bond between people and pigs. Mother and son filmmaking team Tess and Josh Gerritsen found two of their compelling interview subjects in their home state — Colby College professor of Jewish Studies David Freidenreich in Waterville, and Melissa Kelly, chef and owner of Primo restaurant in Rockland.

Archeologist Peter Rowley-Conwy of Durham University offers his theories about a variety of topics surrounding the pig in human society, including the origins of domesticity and the pork taboo. Donkey Universe Films

“Magnificent Beast” premieres Thursday, Feb. 24, at 10 p.m. on Maine PBS. The documentary airs on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings) and streams on PBS.org. The documentary is distributed by the National Educational Television Association (NETA).

This engaging documentary examines the domesticated pig — as well as its feral swine cousin — from snout to tail, revealing the unique ways this animal has become an integral part of human history and the center of debate wherever it appeared. The filmmakers interview archeologists about the pig’s first appearance in a variety of civilizations and cultures, and the mutual dependence of humans and pigs through centuries. The cultural choice of whether to eat or not eat pigs is a central part of the story told, as historians, Jews, and Muslims in the United States and Egypt weigh in about the origins of the “pork taboo” and chefs and farmers praise the pig’s versatility in visits to restaurants and food festivals. Pet pig owners — as well as the leaders of a pig rescue for those abandoned when mini breeds and other pigs don’t turn out as expected — share their experiences with this highly intelligent animal. And on the darker side of the pig/people relationship, the documentary visits with the USDA, as well as hunters focused on the ways in which subversive feral swine wreak havoc on the health and safety of livestock and farmers.

Two Maine residents offer perspectives on the history of pigs as food. Professor David Freidenreich of Colby College in Waterville is one of the film’s experts on the “pork taboo,” explaining the theories behind the origins of the Jewish kosher laws and their continuation in American Jewish culture. In Rockland, the filmmakers spent time with Chef Melissa Kelly, owner of Primo restaurant and farm, where she established an annual Pig Day during which her staff and guests pay respect to the animal and fully embrace its culinary potential.

“Magnificent Beast” has been featured at the Washington Jewish Film Festival, DOCUTAH, the Edmonton International Film Festival and the Miami Jewish Film Festival.

Doreen Burke of Florida established a pig clothing business inspired by her pet, Rosie. Courtesy of Doreen Burke

Donkey Universe Films is an independent film production company based in Camden, Maine. Co-director and producer 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,” “Island Zero”). “Magnificent Beast” is her second collaboration with her son Josh. Co-director and producer Josh Gerritsen began his career in short films and portrait photography before starting an organic farm, an experience that inspired “Magnificent Beast.”

Chef Melissa Kelly, owner of Primo restaurant and farm in Rockland, established an annual Pig Day during which her staff and guests pay respect to the animal and fully embrace its culinary potential. Donkey Universe Films