Dismantling Democracy

UPDATE 6.8.21: Dismantling Democracy has been nominated for an Emmy Award! LEARN MORE.



Dismantling Democracy | A MAKE films original documentary - movie poster

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Dismantling Democracy is being distributed by American Public Television.



Listen to Allen Clements discuss our docuseries Dismantling Democracy on Smart Talk, a lively and thoughtful conversation on a wide range of issues and ideas relevant to central Pennsylvanians hosted by Scott LaMar.




MAKE/FILMS in partnership with VPM and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics explores the past and critically examines the present to understand the risks to our democracy and the future of global politics.

Dismantling Democracy examines democratic structures of government in the United States and around the world. Narrated by Tara Setmayer and featuring interviews from across the political spectrum, the three-part series depicts the gradual deterioration of the democratic process. Through a critical look at the history and current state of democracies, it becomes evident that preserving democracy is a feat no less significant than its establishment. So, are we up to this pressing task of preserving democracy?

Dismantling Democracy: Part 1 – America, Land of the Free?

What is democracy? Who is free? Does it really matter if American democracy falls?

In the first of this three-part series, we dive into the history of democracy, its birth and the United States’ unique take on this form of government. The episode takes a look at some uniquely American challenges that limit American democracy such as hyperpartisanship, negative partisanship, institutional constraints (gerrymandering, the Electoral College, voter registration) public apathy and cynicism, influence of money in politics, and the public’s media consumption habits.

By looking at the recent past and failed democracies in other nations, the episode also explores what comes next if American democracy falls.

Dismantling Democracy: Part 2 – Democracy Around the World

Is democracy at risk abroad? Do other countries face similar problems with upholding democratic freedoms? What lessons can we learn from failed democracies?

In the second episode of this three part series, we step outside of the United States and explore democracies around the world. We look at issues facing American democracy and how those issues transpire in other democratic countries providing perspective for our own democratic success and weaknesses.

Dismantling Democracy: Part 3 – The Way Forward

What is needed for democratic societies to thrive? How has media and social media in the U.S. affected our democracy? Does a two party system and an electoral college still work today?

In the final episode of our three part series, we explore what is needed and what may need to change to preserve American democracy. By looking at the basic pillars of a democratic society — freedom of speech, free and fair elections and a focus on human rights — we are challenged to rise to the occasion, participate in civic discourse and take action.


Featuring interviews with Ann Dowd, Larry Sabato, Ted Cruz, Tim Kaine, Michael Abramowitz, Margaret Brennan, Rosa Clemente, Ian Bremmer, Jalane Schmidt, Steven Levitsky, Chris Sabatini, Jamelle Bouie, and more.


Director | Allen Clements, MAKE/FILMS

Executive Producer | Glenn Crossman, University of Virginia Center for Politics

Executive Producer | Larry Sabato, University of Virginia Center for Politics

Executive Producer | Derek Dienner, MAKE/FILMS

Director of Photography | Steve Buckwalter, MAKE/FILMS

Editor | Jordan Graff, MAKE/FILMS


Tara Setmayer is a CNN Political Commentator, ABC News Political Contributor, and former GOP communications director on Capitol Hill. She is also the host of “Honestly Speaking with Tara” podcast. In 2017, Tara was named as a Board Director for Stand Up Republic, a non profit organization formed in the wake of the 2016 election to unite Americans behind the defense of democratic norms, ideals and institutions.

Tara Setmayer, Dismantling Democracy


Official selection in the Virginia Film Festival. Following the screening was a discussion with interview subject Ann Dowd from The Handmaid’s Tale, moderated by Executive Producer Larry Sabato.

Emmy Award Nominee by the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the category of “Documentary – Cultural | Topical.”


In January of 2019, MAKE/FILMS forged a partnership with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and VPM with the goal of producing a documentary series about how democracy is faring in our current world but also how and if we might strengthen democracy through our education, our words, and our actions.

The film defines freedom from various perspectives. It reflects on the recent foreign interference in American elections, it includes an in-depth discussion of populism and authoritarianism providing a list of signals to look out for in candidates.

What we hope to accomplish with this documentary series is to provide solutions in a time where hyperpartisanship, apathy, and worse are threatening the foundation that free countries are standing on.

The film series is currently slated for a fall 2020 release on PBS stations nationwide. Check your local listings to find out when it’s coming to a PBS station near you: pbs.org/tv_schedules. Part 1 was screened at the Virginia Film Festival on Saturday, October 26th, 2019.

OUR PARTNER | The UVA Center for Politics

For the past twenty years, The UVA Center for Politics has produced documentary films on various political topics and historical figures. Their films have been widely exhibitions and broadcast and have won several awards. In an effort to bolster their mission, they devised this film concept and hired MAKE/FILMS to co-produce the series. According to their website, “Government works better when politics works better, and politics works better when citizens are informed and involved participants.” Their action items include encouraging active participation in government and to enrich civic education opportunities. The President of The Center for Politics, Larry Sabato (pictured above under the section ‘FEATURING’), is an American political scientist and political analyst. Sabato is featured on political news programs several times each week. Working with The Center for Politics has been an amazing experience. Their connections with the political world are extremely vast and we appreciate them as a client who likes to dig deep, have fun, and make the best film possible.


VPM is the largest locally owned and operated public media company in Central Virginia. As Virginia’s home for public media, VPM provides the best of PBS and NPR programming coupled with a strong set of community-based programs and services designed to make an important impact in the areas of arts, news, history, science and education. Each week, VPM’s stations are accessible to nearly 2 million people across Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. More information may be found at VPM.org.

For press inquiries please contact Lisbet Byler at lisbet@makefilms.cc.

Read our press release about Dismantling Democracy here.