"Little Pink House," the movie, has its world premiere

One of the interesting stories I heard from author Jeff Benedict on Thursday, before the premiere of the movie "Little Pink House," was how he got rock legend David Crosby to write the theme song for the film.

I spoke in the morning to Benedict, who was in California awaiting Thursday night's screening of the movie based on his book at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Also in Santa Barbara for the premiere Thursday was the real-life star of the book, Susette Kelo, whose case, Kelo v. City of New London, which she lost before the U.S. Supreme Court, put a klieg light on the use and abuse of eminent domain.

Crosby, of the 1960s folk group Crosby, Stills and Nash, and ever the cheerleader for an underdog — in this case a scrappy woman fighting to save her home — also was in Santa Barbara to attend the premiere, which features the song "Home Free," which he wrote for the movie.

It was, curiously, another story from southeastern Connecticut, told in Benedict's book "Without Reservation," about the establishment of the Mashantucket Pequot gambling juggernaut, that led to Crosby and Benedict becoming friends.

It turns out, Benedict explained, Crosby hired Benedict many years ago to help him and some neighbors in southern California try to stop an Indian tribe from annexing lands from their towns for a tribal casino. They hired Benedict as an expert, because of how much he knew about the Pequot annexation battles in Connecticut.

They liked each other, stayed friends, and Crosby loved "Little Pink House" when the book came out, Benedict said. So getting him to write music for it was not such a hard sell, Benedict told me Thursday morning.

Benedict has published a lot of books over his 21-year writing career, but Thursday's was his first film premiere, and he sounded eager for the big event.

Benedict closely was involved in the production of the film, which was directed by Courtney Moorehead Balaker, who wrote the screenplay. Catherine Keener and Jeanne Tripplehorn star.

The producers are hoping to generate interest and a national distributor for the film as it makes the rounds of film festivals. It is scheduled to be the opening film next week at the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College in New York City.

"Little Pink House" was chosen in part because the New York festival strives to showcase films about inspiring accomplishments by women.

Benedict said the movie closely follows the book and so is true to the story, as people in southeastern Connecticut remember it.

He says it is hard for him to predict how audiences will react to the story which, in the book and film, continues even after the Supreme Court decision, as Kelo and others finally are made to leave home.

It largely was filmed in Canada but parts of it were filmed in New London and locals will recognize places, Benedict said.

There probably won't be a local screening until there is a national distributor and it can be shown in more than one theater at a time, he said.

Another interesting story Benedict told Thursday was how he used to test college students in the writing classes in which he taught "Little Pink House."

The essay question, he said, posed the conjecture: Who was the most ambitious character in the book: George Milne, the Pfizer executive who made the deal to move Pfizer's research headquarters to Fort Trumbull; Gov. John Rowland, who put up the state money to clear the waterfront peninsula there, or Claire Gaudiani, president of Connecticut College and head of the redevelopment agency that executed the city's eminent domain orders?

This is a simple answer for Benedict, who says Gaudiani arranged the strange marriage of Pfizer, the city and the state that led to Kelo v. New London.

"If Gaudiani was not there," he said, "it doesn't happen."

The former college president, as a result, looms large over the movie.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects the spelling of Susette Kelo's name.

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