Lawmakers to View Eminent Domain Film 'Little Pink House' at U.S. Capitol

Little Pink House - Still 1 - H 2017
Courtesy of Athena Film Festival

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, have signed on.

Members of Congress and U.S. senators — Democrats and Republicans alike — are set to view an eminent domain feature film at a theater located in the Capitol building on April 17.

The film is called Little Pink House and tells the story of Susette Kelo, whose home was taken through eminent domain to make way for a pharmaceutical company named Pfizer, which was expanding in preparation for a blockbuster drug called Viagra.

Kelo fought her case to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost, though Pfizer never built its facility at the site of her former home. The movie, starring Catherine Keener and Jeanne Tripplehorn, with music by legendary rocker David Crosby, is set to be released April 20 by Dada Films.

Kelo was represented before the Supreme Court by the Institute for Justice, and the screening of Little Pink House is sponsored by that organization, though for access to the Capitol theater, the event must be hosted by an elected lawmaker. In this case, Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, have signed on.

It’s unusual for feature films to screen at the Capitol, though not unheard of. Steven Spielberg, for example, presented his movie, Lincoln, to a bipartisan audience on one of the screens there in 2012, for example.

The event, according to an invitation obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, features introductory remarks by the two congressmen and other speakers include Kelo, her Supreme Court attorney Scott Bullock, Little Pink House producer Ted Balaker and director Courtney Balaker.

“I haven’t seen the movie yet, but my understanding is that it’s about an act of heroism by one woman,” Rohrabacher said when contacted by phone on Wednesday. “Maybe what can come out of this event is specific legislation about eminent domain, or at least a bipartisan understanding of property rights and how government can be manipulated by special interests.”

Some of those involved in the film say it explores an especially timely issue given President Donald Trump’s past support of eminent domain.

Eminent domain for private use “is a widespread problem across the nation,” it says in the invitation to the event. “Ms. Kelo bought her house — a cottage — and painted it pink. When politicians planned to bulldoze it for a corporation, she fought back.”

The city and state eventually spent $78 million to purchase and destroy Kelo’s home, and those of her neighbors, on the promise of about 3,200 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in extra tax revenue, none of which materialized.