Mr. Fish’s political cartoons include swear words, violent scenes and unflattering views of some people, but the artist himself said he has a purpose.
“I’ve been accused of crossing the line. But I like to ask, ‘What do you find when you cross the line?’ You see the other side,” said Mr. Fish, a pen name used by Dwayne Booth, 52, of Philadelphia. “If you look at something when you cross the line, you’re able to walk around the subject that you’re engaged with and see it in three dimensions, and that’s very important. You realize that someone is drawing a line and prevent you access to something.”
The edgy, controversial editorial cartoonist is the subject of “Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End,” a Chagrin Documentary Film Festival selection making its Ohio premiere at 9 p.m. on Oct. 6 at Chagrin Cinemas.
“His work is so relevant to our times,” said director and producer Pablo Bryant, 48, of Los Angeles. “He was looking at modern life, culture and politics and deconstructing it with wit, humor and style. His cartoons are not easy, throwaway pieces. They take the viewer on a ride, and they challenge the viewer.”
He said he was inspired to make the film because of one particular theme that is evident throughout Mr. Fish’s artwork. Mr. Fish hints in his art that all human beings – including himself – are participating in their own demise. In his cartoons, Mr. Fish points out that Americans are the beneficiaries of many types of exploitation around the world and wants his viewers to be aware of that and struggle with it.
Mr. Bryant continued that he was hungry for art like Mr. Fish’s when he heard about the artist on a radio interview in which Mr. Fish said he lives every day in the five stages of grief, but in reverse. Mr. Fish said he wakes up with acceptance, then moves through depression, bargaining, anger and denial.
“Mr. Fish is valuable because he’s a free thinker. He’s not looking to package his ideas into a commodifiable, palpable cartoon,” Mr. Bryant said. “He wants to serve his creativity. That’s inspiring and brave.”
Mr. Fish focuses the content of his cartoons on whatever elicits an emotional reaction from him. He does not make an intellectual decision to focus on one topic over another, but rather he follows his response to certain events or news stories. Mr. Fish said that being a critical thinker has been redefined as being unpatriotic, and he is willing to be unpatriotic for reasons of truth seeking and maintaining a critical mind.
“That’s much more important than remaining silent in celebration of a First Amendment that we’re not encouraged to use,” Mr. Fish said. “People have been conditioned to think that First Amendment rights are rude. They’re saying it’s OK to shut people up. That gives corporate entities power to silence voices without controversy.”
Mr. Bryant explained that he wants each viewer to have his or her own experience with the film. He said that he considered his audience while filming, but did not want to be too careful with the audience because Mr. Fish is a “dangerous and unconventional artist.”
If you go
Film: “Mr. Fish Cartooning from the Deep End”
Screening: Oct. 6 at 9 p.m.
Location: Chagrin Cinemas A, 8200 E. Washington St.
Tickets and information: www.chagrinfilmfest.org