Milestone Films

The Annihilation of Fish


Coming to theaters in collaboration with Kino Lorber in 2024!

Milestone Films and Kino Lorber are proud to announce the 4K and analog 35mm restoration and release of Charles Burnett’s long-lost feature, The Annihilation of Fish, starring James Earl Jones, Lynn Redgrave, and Margot Kidder. The restoration is by UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Foundation with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation of the acclaimed independent filmmaker’s missing movie.
“Charles Burnett is one of the finest filmmakers in this country,” said Martin Scorsese, Founder and Chair of The Film Foundation. “His pictures speak in a cinematic voice that is uniquely and completely his own. For much too long, The Annihilation of Fish has been in limbo. It took many years and endless persistence to rescue this beautiful, delicate picture and get the original materials properly restored and preserved. It required the combined efforts of multiple organizations — Milestone Films, UCLA Film & Television Archive, The Film Foundation, and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation — to see this restoration through, and I’m so happy that it’s finally ready for the world to discover.”
Shot in 1999, The Annihilation of Fish screened that September at the Toronto International Film Festival and was acquired for distribution. But following a single bad review in Variety, the distributor canceled the film’s release. For almost a quarter of a century, The Annihilation of Fish has been unavailable on all media — it has never been distributed on 35mm, DCP, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, television, or streaming — anywhere.  
In 2003, Mr. Burnett asked Milestone Films (distributor of his features Killer of SheepMy Brother’s Weddingand The Final Insult plus five short films) to try to acquire the rights for his lost film, The Annihilation of Fish. Thus began a 19-year-long odyssey that included hundreds of phone calls, faxes, and emails contacting distributors, producers and heirs, archives, labs, lawyers, the US Treasury Department, and finally the US Bankruptcy Court for the State of California. Even after finally acquiring the rights for The Annihilation of Fish, Milestone spent six months battling a lab to get the master film materials transferred to the UCLA Film & Television Archive — which now holds the film’s 35mm original A/B picture negative, 35mm internegative, 35mm interpositive, 35mm original track negative, 35mm prints and various sound masters.
Charles Burnett’s feature films Killer of Sheep (1978) and To Sleep With Anger (1990) were both named to the prestigious US National Film Registry. In 2022, Killer of Sheep was also listed in Sight and Sound’s international poll as one of the “100 Most Important Films of All Time.” The filmmaker has also made groundbreaking work for television, including NightjohnSelma, Lord, Selmaand Warming By the Devil’s Fire. In presenting him with an honorary Oscar® in 2017, filmmaker Ava DuVernay described Mr. Burnett as  “A giant, a legend, an icon, a true artist… one of the most significant American directors in the history of cinema of any color.” He is also a past recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.
Adapted from a short story by Anthony C. Winkler, The Annihilation of Fish (1999, 108 minutes) is a tender comedy about two eccentric humans (James Earl Jones and Lynn Redgrave) finding love later in life. With extraordinary performances from a stellar cast, the film tackles such issues as race, mental illness, and aging with anarchic humor and energy.
On the acquisition and restoration of his film, Charles Burnett has written: 
The Annihilation of Fish was written by Anthony Winkler, produced by Paul Heller and Kris Dodge, edited by Nancy Richardson, cinematography by John Demps, Jr., sound by Veda Campbell, music by Laura Karpman, production designer Nina Ruscio, production supervisor Ed Santiago, and starring Lynn Redgrave, James Earl Jones, Linden Chiles, Margot Kidder, and Tommy Hicks. There are so many people whom I have to thank who worked over the years to get The Annihilation of Fish restored and released. Releasing the film conveys a great deal to everyone involved, particularly the cast and crew, especially the late Paul Heller, who spent ten years producing the film. I want to thank Milestone Films, UCLA Film & Television Archive, The Film Foundation and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, who found the funding to restore and release it so that cinema lovers can enjoy this story about two distinctly different, lonely people who find love in the crazy world while still holding on to their bizarre outlooks on life.”

 An Explanation of Home, Classroom, and Public Performance Rights

Individuals and non-profit institutions purchasing DVDs, DVD-Rs, or Blu-rays — or streaming — at published home-use sale and rental prices are authorized to use the film only for private home screenings and legitimate classroom showings (a regularly scheduled class with an instructor present), per the United States Copyright Law. You can learn more about the distinction between classroom and public performance screenings here.


Through our distribution partner, Kino Lorber, Milestone provides a variety of licensing to suit all needs. Our standard institutional licensing packages are designed to provide colleges, universities and qualified non-profits with the best value for multiple uses, and our one-time community screening licenses allow any organization to exhibit high-quality films for a reasonable fee. Please note that all licensing carries restrictions on audience numbers and/or geographic range.


  • CLASSROOM RIGHTS allow unlimited use in face-to-face classroom situations for the life of the media, restricted to a single campus or location. Please note that this license doesn't include public screenings or digital transmission of any kind.
  • PUBLIC PERFORMANCE RIGHTS (PPR) allow educational and nonprofit groups to exhibit our films to groups of 100 or fewer individuals where admission is not charged. The term of the public performance license is for the life of the DVD. However, if you intend to charge admission, expect an audience over 100, or publicly advertise the screening, then we ask that you contact us regarding an exhibition fee. Films purchased without Public Performance Rights are restricted for individual viewing or face-to-face teaching in the classroom only.
  • DIGITAL SITE LICENSES (DSL) allow colleges, universities and nonprofits to locally host and stream to their community on a closed, password-protected system for the life of the digital file.
  • K-12 PPR comes with limited performance rights so films can be shown in classrooms, at PTA meetings, during after school programs, and transmitted on a closed-circuit system within a K-12 school building or on a single campus. 

For all educational licenses and screenings, please Estelle Grosso, Director of Educational and Non-Theatrical Sales & Distribution at Kino Lorber (Milestone’s distribution partner) at:

The purchase of DVDs, DVD-Rs, and Blu-rays at the institutional rate by anyone outside of a North American non-profit educational institution does not grant rights for public performance or streaming.

Any continuous or loop screenings as part of a museum exhibition must also be licensed separately. Inquiries must be negotiated directly by emailing

Information for Exhibitors Screening DCPs and Film Prints

All bookings must be made by email correspondence with George Schmalz, Director of Theatrical Sales at Kino Lorber (Milestone’s distribution partner) at: to negotiate terms and insure a screening copy is available. An order is only finalized when Kino Lorber sends written confirmation.

DCPs are shipped insured for their cost via Federal Express or UPS and must be returned the same way or by an equivalent method. Shipping and handling charges for outgoing DCPs appear on your invoice. The immediate return or transshipment (as directed) of all DCPs is your responsibility.

DCPs should be returned to:

Milestone Film & Video
38 George Street
Harrington Park, New Jersey 07640-0128
United States 

35mm and 16mm prints are shipped insured for their cost via Federal Express or UPS and must be returned the same way or by an equivalent method. Please do not ship prints back via US Mail. Exhibitor pays to ship both ways. Shipping and handling charges for outgoing prints appear on your invoice. The immediate return of all prints is your responsibility.

Prints should be returned insured for $1,000 to:

Iron Mountain
Attn: Milestone Account
235 Main Street
Little Falls, NJ 07424

For public screenings, advertising materials can be requested by contacting

Milestone is the exclusive licensor for all the titles in this catalog, all of which are available from Milestone’s distribution partner Kino Lorber. in their complete versions.


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