OAKLAND -- Baseball season is upon us. As an American sport, there is much nostalgia around what baseball means: hot dogs, peanuts, family barbecues, catching a foul ball and good old-fashioned pride in one's team.
For director and producer Daron Ker, baseball became the bridge that connected American culture with his Cambodian roots in his film, "Rice Field of Dreams," which will be screened this weekend at the 11th Oakland International Film Festival.
The film festival runs Thursday through Sunday at five different venues: Grand Lake Theater, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, San Leandro Performing Arts Center, New Parkway Theater and Black Repertory Theater. There will be screenings of more than 50 films, including three screenings of "Rice Field of Dreams" on Friday and Sunday.
Ker spent about four years following Joe Cook, like him a Cambodian refugee, who returned to Cambodia to create the country's first national baseball team.
With the help of American coaches, Cook rigorously trained and prepared his team of 22 young men for a baseball competition -- the Sea Games -- in Bangkok. The film follows the team's journey throughout the competition.
As a baseball fan, Ker was inspired to make the film after reading about Cook's mission in a news article.
"This film is more than just baseball; it gives kids hopes and dreams and inspires them to pursue their dreams," Ker said.
The film's inspiring story and unique, independent flavor are what grabbed the interest of David Roach, director of the film festival.
"We look for compelling stories, stories that will inspire the audience. We look for original voices, authentic voices, if it's related to a particular culture," he said.
"And 'Rice Field of Dreams' is that kind of film. There are several Cambodian communities here, and Daron shows how going back to that homeland and having that pride builds something that can inspire."
For Ker, the most rewarding part of making the film was reconnecting with his roots. He fled Cambodia in the late 1970s in the midst of the Khmer Rouge massacres and hadn't returned until 2007.
"It was a great thing for me to get back there and kind of understand what really happened, you know, because I was so young," he said.
"Rice Field of Dreams" was released in May 2012, but this will be the first time it will be screened to the general public. Until now, screenings were just for Cambodian audiences, so Ker could introduce himself to his own community, he said.
When: Thursday through Sunday, films run from 1 to 4 p.m., 5 to 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight
Where: Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland; Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 Ninth St., #290; San Leandro Performing Arts Center, 2250 Bancroft Ave.; New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St., Oakland; Black Repertory Theater, 3201 Adeline St., Oakland