Kevin Cody

‘Little Pink House’ gets big response at Regal screening

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Courtney and Ted Balaker wrote, produced and directed “Little Pink House,” while living in Redondo Beach. Photo by Kevin Cody

by Kevin Cody

In 2010, while living in Redondo Beach, Courtney and Ted Balaker formed Korchula Production with the goal of “Making important ideas entertaining.” Courtney was a theater and film director, and pregnant. Her husband Ted had been with ABC News for five years.

Ted’s time at ABC News coincided with the buildup to Kelo vs. City of New London, a U.S. Supreme Court case involving eminent domain. Suzette Kelo was the leader of a tightly knit, low income, waterfront neighborhood whose homes were condemned by New London to make way for a Pfizer Pharmaceutical Viagra factory. Previously, eminent domain had only been used for acquiring property for public purposes, such as roadways and parks.

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The city contended that the factory served a public purpose because it would generate jobs and taxes for the economically depressed city.

The Balakers made Kelo vs. New London the basis for their first feature film “The Little Pink House.” The film stars Catherine Keener (“Get out,” “Capote,”) as Kelo and Jeanne Tripplehorn (“Big Love,” “The Firm”) as the persuasive face of the Pfizer project.

Kelo’s reason for refusing to sell her little pink house is illustrated in the film when she asks a Realtor representing Pfizer if she would sell the locket around her neck. The Realtor declines Kelo’s offer, though it was far greater than the locket’s retail value because the locket is a family heirloom.

When the attorney for New London is asked by one of the Supreme Court Justices if he believed eminent domain could be used to condemn a small hotel to make way for a Marriott because the Marriott would produce more jobs and tax revenue, the attorney answered yes.

Courtney and Ted Balaker are presented with a shadow box containing their film’s poster, by associate producers Kerry and Helen Welsh, of Palos Verdes. Photo by Kevin Cody

The movie’s Supreme Court dialog is verbatim from the Supreme Court transcript. The court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of New London and Pfizer.

National political columnist George Wills, who wrote about the case at the time of the Supreme Court decision, wrote in a recent column “‘Little Pink House’ will win the Oscar for best picture if Hollywood’s political preening contains even a scintilla of sincerity about speaking truth to power.”

But despite widespread critical acclaim, the film has had difficulty finding widespread distribution. To enable South Bay residents to view the film, Peninsula residents Helen and Kerry Welsh rented a screen at the Regal Theater in Palos Verdes last Thursday. The Welshes are associate producers of the film. After the sold-out screening, they presented the Balakers with a shadow box containing the film’s posters and fragments of the original Little Pink House.

During questions and answers, the Balakers noted that the Supreme Court split down ideological lines in its 5 to 4 decision against Kelo and her neighbors.

“My Los Angeles friends find this hard to understand, but it was liberal Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer who voted in favor of allowing New London to seize Kelo and her neighbors’ properties. The conservative justices — O’Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas — described it as a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor to give to the rich.”

After Kelo and her neighbors were paid fair market value for their homes and their homes bulldozed, Pfizer decided the site was too small for its factory.

But there was at least some positive outcome from the court decision, the Balakers told their Palos Verdes audience. Nearly half of states subsequently passed legislation preventing eminent domain from being used to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner.

The Balakers are now helping to get similar legislation passed in the remaining states, including California. The Balakers are also organizing an effort to have the condemned New London properties returned to Kelo and her neighbors.

“Little Pink House isn’t just a movie. It’s a movement,” Ted Balaker said.

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