Skip to main content
#
The Independent Critic

 Daron Ker Interview - Director of "I Ride" and "Rice Field of Dreams" 
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Reddit
Add to favorites
Email
Born in the "Killing Fields" era of tyranny and violence, one of Cambodia born filmmaker Daron Ker's earliest childhood memories is of seeing Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus projected onto a screen in an internment camp. Not long after this experience, Ker and his family escaped from Cambodia and crossed over the border into Thailand. Thanks to a church's sponsorship and family already in the United States, Ker's family made their way to Southern California. Now a filmmaker with two excellent documentaries to his credit, I Ride and Rice Field of Dreams, Daron Ker's sense of gratitude and appreciation for the path his life has taken radiates in nearly every word he speaks. Ker spoke by telephone recently with The Independent Critic about his childhood, his journey to the United States and his career as a filmmaker.

DARON KER

Where are you from, Richard?

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

I am from Indianapolis, Indiana.

DARON KER

A little while ago I was with the Doobie Brothers at a radio station up there where you're at. I guess it's the #1 radio station there? Hard rock?

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

WFBQ? Q95?

DARON KER

Yeah, that's it. That's it. We were there to film the show with the Doobie Brothers. It was pretty cool. I like Indiana.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

So, you're also a musician? Or you were just filming them?

DARON KER

No, I'm just a filmmaker. We spent two weeks on the road with them filming concerts and stuff. We ended up over there in Indiana. It was pretty cool. I really enjoyed it. So, anyway, I got to experience Indiana for a minute.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

I remember that concert. I didn't make it, but I really have always liked the Doobie Brothers. Are you still based out of San Francisco?

DARON KER

Yeah, I'm still here in San Francisco.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

One of the things I'll tell you about my website is that I have a strong social justice angle and really stress the ways in which film can make the world a better place. So, when Lori (Daron's publicist) told me about your story I was really excited. You really have a pretty amazing story. I've seen both I Ride and Rice Field of Dreams, and they both have this incredible thread of humanity that flows through them. I really enjoyed both of them.

DARON KER

We're planning to release I Ride in Indiana. I hope that we are able to release it in November, and I'm working with a booking agent now to release it in Indiana. There are a lot of bikers in Indiana. We'll see what happens.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

After Rice Field of Dreams and the focus on Cambodia, what made you tackle a film like I Ride and the biker community or specifically the Fryed Brothers Band?

DARON KER

Actually, I was shooting them both at the same time. I got started with the biker community first. Then, I kind of shifted gears and started working on Rice Field of Dreams because the biker film was taking a little longer. It took a lot longer than I imagined.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Did you come up with the idea for the film and then try to integrate yourself into the biker community? How did it all come about?

DARON KER

I was hired to shoot a narrative feature film, but that didn't get off the ground. I was invited to go to Sturgis. I decided to just bring my camera and to just shoot what biker culture's really all about. To be honest with you, I knew nothing about that world. Boy, when I got there I really discovered it. I was like "Wow!" It's crazy...seems like millions of bikers. There's just bikes all over. I've never seen anything like that before. There were all these big, bearded guys. I'm dressed in like GQ going over there. I didn't know what it was. The lady who brought me there said I should just get dropped off at this place they called "the animal house." There were bikers everywhere, women everywhere. There were chicks running around naked. There was just all kinds of crazy stuff. We got scared. I jumped in the shuttle and told them to drop me off where I got picked up. They were like "What's wrong?" I was like "We can't be here. Take me someplace else. Take me back to find the lady who brought me here." The dude was like "That's all the way back to the airport." I was like "I'm not going to stay here. I'm going to get killed here." I had him drive me all the way back looking for this lady. There's no way I was going to stay there by myself with all my gear and stuff. That's how I was introduced to the biker scene.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

You obviously at some point overcame that fear? Or something happened to shift your thinking, anyway? Did you just stick it out or what happened?

DARON KER

After a day or two of them mad doggin' me and looking at me like I was something weird or something. I guess it's a test of strength or manhood or something. I'll never forget it. I came back with the lady and she's telling them "This is Daron and he's a cinematographer from San Francisco." They were laughing "San Francisco?" I was thinking "Oh shit." It was pretty funny, because everyone was like 250-300 pounds. I was like "How am I going to get out of this one?" These guys look like if you hit them in the face, they're not going to fall. One of the guys was like "By the way, you guys are staying in the dungeon." It was down in the basement. Oh my god. Yeah, I was just freaked out. Obviously, it was a test of strength. They partied all night. Who could sleep? Everyone was right there and there were motorcycles 24/7. It was in a big animal house. I pulled the lady over, her name was Gail, and I was like "I'm going to die in this place. If I have to pay for a hotel or whatever I'll do it." She went to talk to the main guy and was like "Daron's feeling a little uncomfortable." The guy was like "What's he uncomfortable about?" I stuck it out and after a couple days they started to open up to me. I was so fascinated by it that I pulled out my camera and I just started shooting everything. I just got sucked into this biker culture.

It was a couple days where no one was really talking to me. The leader of the Fryed Brothers Band, Harry, said "That's a nice camera. You wanna' shoot some stuff with us?" I was "Yeah, that's cool. I'd love to shoot some stuff with you." He took me to this place that was just amazing and finally stopped being nervous about everything and really enjoying it. That's when it started really being fun... when they invited me to come hang out with them. The magic moment was when the Fryed Brothers started playing. It wasn't my kind of music, you know? I figured I'd just shoot some stuff, but I was like "These guys are great." All the bikers and everybody showed up and they all had a good time. These guys could really hold a crowd. The music was really pretty good. As a filmmaker, I started to see something special and it sort of became an idea. What really hooked me was when Harry explained about the song "I Ride," a song about how they got introduced to the biker culture through their beloved. When they played that song, I started to think to myself that I might have a story here. When they play that song that's at the end of the film, I was just blown away. They'd told me I could shoot anything I wanted, and I did...at least until I pointed my camera at a Hell's Angel who looked me and said "Don't you ever put that camera in my face again." I sure didn't do that again.

I was so fascinated by Harry, and he took me to all the back doors. He introduced me to all these big guys and I was thinking "This is crazy." I was scared but excited. Day two I was staying up with his brother Tommy all night. I partied with them and I wanted to hear more stories about the Fryed Brothers. Then, I find out a bunch of cool stuff and that they've been playing with everybody... people like Willie Nelson and that. This was just a band that had never had a chance to really make it for some reason. They were just really great. The music is great, it's vibrant and what they speak for in the music is great. I just really got to where I wanted to see where I could go with it. I asked Harry "I'm really inspired by your story. It's an underdog story for sure. Can I make a film with you?"

He looked me and said "Sure. Are you ready for the ride?" I was like "What's that mean?" Then, I was like "Yeah, I'm ready for the ride." He told me to show up to the 25th anniversary party, which was like a week or two after Sturgis. I showed up with a bunch of my film crew like my cinematographer and my sound guy and four cameras just to shoot the concert. All my guys, though, we're not bikers at all. We got to the front gate and asked "Is this the Redwood party?" He was like "Yeah, but you're in the wrong place son. You'd better get out of here. This is not a place for you to be in." I was like "What do you mean this is not a place for me to be in? I was invited here." He just kept saying "You better leave." I went over to one of my buddies who rides a motorcycle. He's not a biker, but I was like "You try, man."  He was like "I'm not going over there. I'm not that type of biker." Here we were talking to this big biker guy. I wouldn't want to piss this guy off...he's like 6'5" and huge. I said "Look, I met the Fryed Brothers at Sturgis a few weeks ago and they said I could come over here and film them." They all started laughing and said "What are you doing at Sturgis, son?" I was like "I was invited to Sturgis to shoot some stuff and I met the Fryed Brothers. They said I could come and film them. I want to do a movie with them. That's why we're here. We have five cameras here." He was like "What are their names?" I was like "Some guy named Harry." He was like "Everybody's Harry. What's his real name?" I couldn't figure it all out. He finally gave Harry a call and Harry was like "Yeah, they're a film crew." They finally let us in. I thought Sturgis was weird, but going into this private party was even crazier. These were the hardcore bikers who come to the parties. The crew was all nervous, but at the end of the day we got to talk about it. We're all artists and Harry was willing to let us inside. It was a hard two years.

When we first started, they just wouldn't listen. We'd tell them to drive slowly so we could shoot some stuff. They'd go 100-110 miles per hour. They would just keep ditching us. I remember this one point we were in Arizona. We mounted the camera on his bike to try to take some shots and he took off and left us. For a half day, we didn't have a camera to shoot anything else. So, the whole day we got one shot of Harry riding to Arizona with our camera mounted in his bike. I was like "Oh my god, my camera is done. It's probably going to fall off." I think about five hours later we found him at the Arizona Bike Weekend. I walked up to him and was like "Thanks for the camera. I'm glad you didn't break it." After that, though, we really started to understand each other. Everything was great. I'm really proud of the film and of how it shows the biker community.
THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Have they seen the film? Bikers?

DARON KER

Yeah, we had a premiere in California. 500 bikers from all over showed up. We scared the crap out of L.A.P.D. They called out the SWAT team and everything, but when the film was over they all just left. It was great to get the response and respect of the culture. They were like "We just really appreciate you making a film about our culture." It was a great experience. I Ride is dedicated to these bikers who passed away and to this culture. It's a great culture. I feel like one of the things we did with I Ride was to open people's eyes to this incredible culture.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

One of the things you did really well with I Ride was that you captured the culture realistically. I've worked with the biker community on some fund-raising and community awareness events, especially Bikers Against Child Abuse. You really capture the fullness of the biker community. I thought it was one of the best films I've seen in really capturing that these are really rich and soulful human beings.

DARON KER

They're great human beings and they care about society. People just look at bikers like they're a bunch of mean guys, but a lot of these guys do a lot for the world, for America. There are all the rides they do and all kinds of things that no one knows about. There are the 9/11 rides recently. There's just a lot that they do for America. These guys have families. They weren't just born rebels and nomads.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

As we talk about culture, this is probably a great time to go back a little bit and talk about your own story. You have this incredibly rich and incredibly powerful story yourself. Maybe you can start by just telling folks a little bit about your background? I mean, obviously, I know some of it but I'd really like to hear it from you. You're from Cambodia, where you had some really devastating experiences at quite the young age. At some point, you escaped from Cambodia. Would escaped be the right word?

DARON KER

Escaped is the right word.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

Is it? Okay. I don't want to be overly dramatic, but yours is a really dramatic story and I don't want to minimize it either.

DARON KER

It's not overly dramatic. It's just the reality of it.

THE INDEPENDENT CRITIC

How old were you when you escaped?

DARON KER

I was about four years old, but our family was stuck in the refugee camp the whole entire time from 1974-1979. We really saw everything. When I started researching, I was just amazed. I didn't realize all I'd been through. I was just a kid. It was hard for me to really comprehend what was going on. My dad was working every day and every night just trying to get us a little piece of meat. Something I've learned is really just that I was not even supposed to be here. My dad was telling me how we caught Malaria and there was no doctor for it. There was just lots of crazy stuff. Then, you start realizing and asking yourself "Why am I really here?"
 Cambodia Facts! 
  • Population: 14, 241,640 (2008)
  • Median Age: 20.6 years
  • Growth Rate: 1.78%
  • Infant Mortality: 68.78/1,000
  • Life Expectancy Males: 57.35 years
  • Life Expectancy Females: 61.32 years
  • Ethnic Groups: Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1%, Other 4%
  • Religions: Theravada Buddhist 95%, Other 5%
  • Languages: Khmer 95% (Official), French, English
  • Literacy Rate: 73.6% (Male 84%, Female 64%)
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
    • B: 3 Stars                         
    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

    our twitterour facebook page pintrestgoogle pluslinkdin

    The Independent Critic © 2008 - 2019