What Pamela Anderson and a Butterball turkey have in common

PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — has made itself a household acronym by staging an escalating series of public spectacles, from hijacking fur-laden fashion shows to comparing animal cruelty to the Holocaust. These tactics, and the woman behind them, are examined at length in the documentary I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA, premiering November 19 on HBO.

Filmmaker Matthew Galkin is attempting a fair-minded look at a decidedly passionate ideologue. Newkirk, PETA’s co-founder and president, is a self-proclaimed “media whore” who’s equally at home fawning over Pamela Anderson and ordering a hidden-camera investigation into a Butterball factory (prompting the rarely heard line “So I saw a turkey sexually molested today”).

Intentionally or not, the result is both a compelling portrait of a weirdly powerful woman and another piece of Newkirk’s media manipulation — an interesting tug of war between filmmaker and subject to see who really controls the message.

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