Pablo Bryant begins his documentary with two clear defenses of free speech. This first is a title card that overtly warns the spectator that this is a free speech area, and the second is a story related to the camera by the subject of the film: cartoonist Mr. Fish. The story he tells involves himself, as a child, writing obscenities on paper airplanes and fantasizing about fighting the system when it was discovered that he was the author. Of course, he just got reprimanded by his mom.

Mr. Fish is a fascinating subject for a documentary. He’s an iconoclastic offender without care or remorse for where he points his cross hairs. His aim is deadly, and his artistic skill deft. He offends the Right and the Left indiscriminately, and almost seems proud of the fact that his notoriety makes earning a consistent paycheck a real difficulty.

Mr. Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End is not a film for the faint of heart, and not for the usual reasons that make documentaries tough, i.e. they’re depressing or tell a tragic story. Instead, by showcasing some of Mr. Fish’s most inflammatory and iconic pieces, this film is both harsh and challenging. Like the very best pieces of art, after considering some of Mr. Fish’s drawings, there are more questions left than answers.

The story takes some strange turns, and Mr. Fish can get a little grating in large doses, but one cannot deny his talent for expression and his ability to convey complex ideas in his imagery. The film does a great job showcasing his talent and giving a glimpse into what makes this provocateur click.

Screens:
Tuesday, May 1, 10:15 AM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, May 6, 6:30 PM Hart House Theatre

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