Without question, How Democracy Works Now is the best documentary film series on government ever produced. There is nothing even close.

The Game is On

Summer, 2001: Secret negotiations between US and Mexico break into front page news, igniting a national debate over immigration that reflects the country's deep divide. Advocates see pro-reform efforts from President Bush and 2 key Senators as an incredible alignment of the stars… until the 9/11 attacks shatter any hope of comprehensive reform. But immigration resurfaces in November's local elections. A heated city council race in Iowa holds the seeds of the battle to come.  Filmed in Washington D.C. and Iowa.

Mountains and Clouds

Spring 2002: Security becomes the national focus. A Border Security Bill must precede immigration reform, but there's a mysterious hold-up in Congress. One Senator is at the bottom of the delay—Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, Kennedy’s most feared colleague. Then the White House proposes a small, immigrant-friendly provision be added to the same stalled bill. The unexpected detour creates more trouble every day it lasts. Senator Byrd holds the key to the deadlock, but what is his demand?  Filmed in Washington, D.C. and Kansas.  


Summer 2002: Once the Border Security Bill is law, Kennedy and Brownback are eager to move back to immigration, but the fight over creation of a Department of Homeland Security eats up the summer. Republicans win the Senate by a landslide in November midterms, and will dominate committees in the next Congress. But immigration is not playing well in Kansas and Brownback is up for reelection. Will one of the Senate's most compassionate advocates decide to give up the Judiciary Committee and chairmanship of the Immigration Sub-committee?   Filmed in Washington D.C., Kansas and Minnesota.


Winter, 2003: As the new Congress begins, a lot of people seem to have ideas about an immigration bill. For pro-immigration advocates, the best bet remains Kennedy's plan. But across the Hill in the House, young staffers for two Republican congressmen from Arizona are quietly crafting a guestworker bill with a path to citizenship. Kennedy's counsel Esther isn't too worried as long as their bill is Republican-only, but once her rivals begin courting a Democrat, the race is on. Suddenly Esther's got a crisis on her hands.   Filmed in Washington, D.C.

Marking up the Dream

October, 2003: High school students stage a mock graduation ceremony on the Capitol lawn. Next day, the DREAM Act gets a chance. Because it's a small bipartisan bill to help kids, supporters are optimistic. But anti-immigrant groups see it as "amnesty for illegals." The Senate Judiciary Committee markup is heated and long. Finally an amended version is recommended for full Senate debate - but what exactly did Senators agree on in the confusion of the markup? The bill's final language must still be defined by opposing staffers. Will they negotiate a deal before the clock runs out?  Filmed in Washington, D.C. and Chicago

Ain't the AFL for Nothin'

Fall, 2003: Esther, Senator Kennedy's Immigration Counsel, has plenty of reasons to worry. She's got eight weeks to accomplish a small miracle: get business and labor to agree on a comprehensive immigration deal, and find a Republican to co-sponsor it in the Senate. Driving cross-country, the Immigrant Worker Freedom Ride buses are coming to lobby Congress, creating a very public impression that unions support Kennedy. But Esther learns forces inside the AFL-CIO are working to derail her bill. Years of work, and the future of millions of families, are riding on one conversation.  Filmed in Washington, D.C., Queens, New York, and California.

Protecting Arizona

Summer, 2004: Across America, grassroots both for and against comprehensive immigration reform are spoiling for a fight at the ballot box. In Arizona, no one can ignore it—voters' frustration is at a boiling point. Citizens launch a wildly popular ballot initiative, PROTECT ARIZONA NOW. Alfredo Gutierrez, radio host and ex-politician, is galvanized out of retirement to try to beat it. National groups get it late: if things go badly in Arizona, they will surely go worse in Washington. The rollicking campaign becomes a case study in local-national strategic alliances and the many ways they can founder.  Filmed in Arizona.

Brothers and Rivals

Fall, 2004–Spring, 2005: Congressmen Kolbe and Flake's reward for their innovative 2003 guestworker bill: tough primary challenges in 2004, facing determined opponents who capitalize on Arizona anger over "amnesty for illegals." The two very different campaigns, both hot and colorful, leave the winners vowing to do something about immigration. Next winter, their staffers team up with staff for Kennedy, McCain, and Democrat Luis Gutierrez. Can they combine the best of earlier, competing bills into the first bipartisan, bicameral Comprehensive Immigration Reform ever introduced in the U.S. Congress?

Filmed in Arizona and Washington, D.C.

The Senate Speaks

January, 2006: The House just passed the toughest anti-amnesty, enforcement-only immigration bill in history. Immigrants feel targeted, and 'Sensenbrenner' (the bill's sponsor) becomes a nasty household word for Latinos. Finally the Senate tackles immigration reform. Millions of people take to the streets all over the US, marching until a bipartisan compromise modeled on last year's Kennedy-McCain bill goes to the Senate floor. But leaders in both parties seem to want an election issue, not a bill. Advocates smell a double-cross, and go public with an attack. What will it take for the Senate to respond?

Filmed in Washington, D.C.

Last Best Chance

Spring, 2007: This year, immigration advocates and grassroots expect great things. But Senator Kennedy has lost his partner John McCain to presidential primaries, and President Bush now puts a very different offer on the table. Deep at the heart of this fast moving story, we find a moral tale of modern American politics. Ted Kennedy—one of the handful of people whose personal efforts truly changed the face of America—will be forced to decide how much he wants a new immigration deal, and what he is willing to trade for his greatest legacy?

Filmed in Washington, D.C.

Americans who find politics and political reporting glib, unsatisfying and depressing now have an antidote for all time.
— The New York Times

The Epidavros Project