For more than a decade, immigration reform stalled on the floors of Congress despite the undaunted efforts of its staunchest supporter, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who spent his final years pursuing a legislative solution that was ultimately derailed. Spotlighting Sen. Kennedy and other lawmakers, The Senators' Bargain offers a rare behind-the-scenes view of the nation's political system.
Shot over the course of six years by renowned filmmakers Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini, The Senators' Bargain follows Sen. Kennedy, the "Lion of the Senate," in one of his final major legislative battles, capturing the political legend in candid conversations at his Capitol Hill hideaway and rallying his allies with impassioned rhetoric on the Senate floor. The battle over immigration reform, like today's health-care debate, is a hot-button issue marked by contentious battles on and off the Hill, with strategically crafted, politically charged buzzwords, and few signs of a resolution.
The film begins in 2001, with Sen. Kennedy and other lawmakers and advocates attempting to forge legislation reshaping the country's immigration policy, culminating in a 2007 battle to achieve the reform that had proven so elusive over the years. From Frank Sharry, the maverick advocate with a back channel to the White House, to Esther Olavarria, Kennedy's battle-seasoned immigration counsel, to Cecilia Muñoz, the policy strategist for the nation's largest Latino advocacy group, every major player in the battle has a personal investment in the outcome of this fight.
Ultimately, Sen. Kennedy and his allies on both sides of the aisle must decide how much they truly want a deal, however compromised, and what price they are willing to pay for it.
Today, Esther Olavarria is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Department of Homeland Security, while Cecilia Muñoz serves as the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for President Obama.
The documentary is the centerpiece of "How Democracy Works Now," a multi-tiered, decade-long project by Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini that brings a more detailed focus to the inner workings of the nation's political system. Additional films from the project will be featured on HBO On Demand.
The Senators' Bargain was directed and produced by Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini; editor, Jane Rizzo; composer, Mark Suozzo; camera, Michael Camerini; sound, Shari Roberston; series coordinating producer, Rachel Salmon; senior associate producer, Jeni Morrison; senior series editor, Mark Juergens; mixer, Martin Czembor; sound editor, Eliza Paley, Michael Fevser; colorist/online editor, Savvas Paritis.