2024 UCLA Festival of Preservation - The Annihilation of Fish

Fri 4/5/2024 • 7:30PM PDT

Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum

Introduction by UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt. Q&A with filmmaker Charles Burnett; film critic and KCRW The Treatment host Elvis Mitchell; Dennis Doros, Amy Heller, Milestone Films.

The Annihilation of Fish (1999), West Coast restoration premiere

Previously unreleased and unavailable, The Annihilation of Fish lovingly tells the unlikely romance of Obadiah “Fish” Johnson (James Earl Jones) and Flower “Poinsettia” Cummings (Lynn Redgrave).

Both tenants in a quiet Los Angeles boarding house, begin a relationship despite their different backgrounds and mental health challenges. Ripe for rediscovery, this charming and poignant work in director Charles Burnett’s oeuvre was restored from the original camera negative allowing for the release it has always deserved. The restoration premieres on an auspicious occasion, the evening is also a celebration of Burnett’s 80th birthday. 


Now in its 21st edition, the biennial UCLA Festival of Preservation showcases the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s latest preservation and restoration projects on the big screen. From the silent film era to the Golden Age of Television to 1990s independent filmmaking, the diverse festival lineup features beloved classics and rarely seen titles ripe for rediscovery, along with special guests for introductions and conversations. The festival’s 10 feature films, four television programs and over a dozen shorts and newsreels reflect the breadth of moving image history in the Archive’s collections, which are the second largest in the U.S. after the Library of Congress.

The opening night will celebrate the 80th birthday of renowned writer-director Charles Burnett, who will be joined in conversation by film critic Elvis Mitchell before the West Coast restoration premiere of The Annihilation of Fish (1999). Following this unsung film will be the groundbreaking The Richard Pryor Special? (1977), featuring a dramatic soliloquy by poet and activist Maya Angelou.

"I am thrilled to present this year's festival, highlighting treasures of the past that bring an exciting mix of documentary, animation, music, comedy, and drama to the Wilder, including The Lighter Side of Hearst Newsreels: Innovations and Inventions (1932-1967) collection, and the provocative horror-tinged dramas presented in the Atomic Television program,” said May Hong HaDuong, director of the Archive. “It's a pleasure to host an event where audiences can come together to experience the enduring impact of film and television through the Archive's dedication to preserving and making accessible the history of moving images."

Among our collaborators that have made this festival possible are esteemed FIAF archives and funding partners, including the Academy Film Archive, ASIFA-Hollywood, The Film Foundation, Film Noir Foundation, Golden Globe Foundation, GRAMMY Foundation, Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, John H. Mitchell Preservation Endowment, Library of Congress, The Louis B. Mayer Foundation, National Film Preservation Foundation, The Packard Humanities Institute, David Stenn and Sundance Institute. We are also grateful to Tony Thomas Productions for generously supporting the festival.

All of the Archive’s public programs, including the UCLA Festival of Preservation, are free through June 2024, thanks to a gift from an anonymous donor.

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