Florida Film Festival: Mr. Fish: Cartooning From The Deep End (2017) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End (2017) is a documentary screening at the 2018 Florida Film Festival. The film showcases Dwayne Booth, who is a political cartoonist who goes by the name Mr. Fish. His cartoons are controversial but often stab at the truth of many problems. The film depicts the struggles he encounters in his career as a result of the unrelenting honesty found in his art, which often utilizes obscene images or text to emphasize his points.

Mr. Fish is a compelling look at the state of political cartoons, expressions in art, and how going against the status quo can affect one’s life

Director Pablo Bryant is able to outline who Mr. Fish is, and how his choices impact his job options as well as his family. There are several interviews that demonstrate admiration for the work Mr. Fish does, which seems to echo Bryant’s own opinion. There is definitely a “starving artist” theme in place here, but it is used to reveal a bigger concern for modern publishing. Censorship has become the norm, and artists with opinions like Mr. Fish, – which seem to exist outside of party lines and focus on the good of humanity – are having a hard time finding outlets.

Some of the more compelling parts of this documentary come from a table of artists, including Mr. Fish, discussing the role of print media and how the myth of its death is being used to phase out these biting cartoons. Various online publications are mentioned in these conversations, and the reality that the cartoons aren’t published on these sites is telling of a bigger, systemic problem.

Mr. Fish is a talented artist with a clear idea of what his moral stance is on most topics, and he articulates his point with imagery. He teaches part-time at a university, as shown in a scene of a lecture during the film, in which he shares a great line: he has a slide that reads “If you can’t look…You can’t see.” As he continues explaining this message, the importance of these cartoons become more apparent. His images often elicit feelings of discomfort, but he makes you look at subjects that need to be discussed. The abrasiveness of these cartoons needs to be seen, and these issues thought about and discussed.

Final thoughts…

I went to college to major in journalism with the hopes of changing the world. When I graduated and looked at the news outlets, I realized the romanticized world of journalism I’d gone to college with no longer existed. While I’ve never been as confrontational as Mr. Fish, I found a kinship with him, even when I didn’t agree with him. Bryant tells a story that showcases the human side of a fighter for freedom that is also extremely entertaining. Mr. Fish: Cartooning From The Deep End earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.


Update: 12/18/2018

As of today, Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End (2017) is available on iTunes. I recommend checking out this documentary and now it is available to do so. 

Listen to Our interview with the director

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