America ReFramed

Dog Days

Season 04  Episode 9

In Washington D.C., where policies guide and at times collide with free-market practices, DOG DAYS goes deep into the world of immigrant street vendors where the ubiquitous American hot dog still reigns supreme. The story unfolds through the working relationship between Coite, an unemployed industrial engineer, and single mother Siyone, an Eritrean who came to this country by way of Sudan, initially with refugee status.

In spite of the worst economy since the Great Depression, almost anyone is free to start a business. Coite takes a bold leap of faith; he risks what’s left of his capital to embark on a new food business, one in which he admittedly knows very little about. But first, he needs the local government to end its 1998 moratorium on new licenses. There were once about 1,000 vendors, but at the time of the film there are only 300 left. Coite must also compete with trendy food-trucks that have popped up all over the city and the owner of the warehouse depot and wholesale purveyor, whose virtual monopoly on street food has a stranglehold over the struggling street vendors.

The film introduces us to vendors from Afghanistan, West Africa, Nigeria and beyond who have held on to their carts for 18-25 years. They dream about freedom — freedom that only hard work can buy like the opportunity to provide for their families. Like Siyone, they take pride in their work and responsibilities but their autonomy comes at a price with workdays often exceeding 12 hours. Despite the hurdles, competition and many a low-earning day, their perseverance secures their family’s well-being and future promise. In the land of endless opportunities, can Coite and Siyone succeed?