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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian film star Dy Saveth nears half a century in the biz

Cambodian film star Dy Saveth nears half a century in the biz

She's been an actress since 1960, when she won Cambodia's first beauty pageant, and shows no signs of quitting. Her most recent role was in the short film In Drama, about ‘love and war'

Photo by:

Sovann Philong

Dy Saveth today, and a photo of the popular actress in her role in Sak Pos, or Snake Hair.

Renowned Cambodian film star Dy Saveth, 64, has been acting since 1960, getting her start at the age of 16 after winning Cambodia's first beauty pageant the year before.

Her distinguished career began by chance when a movie producer approached her.

Being one of the most recognisable faces in Cambodia, Dy Saveth fled the country for France when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. Prior to leaving, she and her then-husband Huoy Keng ran a movie production company.

In 1975 they separated - Huoy Keng escaped to Hong Kong - and were later divorced.

Together the pair have two children, and Dy Saveth has since adopted two more. A big family suits the actress, who was herself one of seven children.

Dy Saveth's return to Cambodia in 1993 was greeted with shock, as most people had presumed that she - like most other actors of her generation - had been killed by the Khmer Rouge or died as a result of their rule.

She resumed her career on screen and continues to appear in numerous projects. Currently, she is a professor of fine arts at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, where she works to inspire a new generation of Khmer actors.

What was the first film you acted in?

Dy Saveth: The first movie I performed in was Kboun Chivit (Raft Life). Initially, I didn't want to act in films, but the movie producer of Kboun Chivit contacted my sister and asked her if I would be willing to act in their film. I was very lucky that this was the first film I was in because it has a good story line and the audience liked it."

I noted down all films i was in, but i lost the book during the pol pot regime.

What were the difficulties you encountered when you first started acting?

Dy Saveth: I didn't really know how to act when I first started my career, but I tried very hard to learn and I believe that's why I achieved success. I teach acting now, and I usually tell my students to focus on what they are doing because if they just listen without concentrating and practicing, they will not succeed. I teach my students for free because when I first started out, the audience really supported me and now I want to return this kindness. I don't have much money or property to give them. I only have my acting knowledge to pass on to those who want to learn.
How many films have you been in?

Dy Saveth: I have acted in around 100 films. I noted down all films I was in, but I lost the book during the Pol Pot regime. Pos Kengkorg (The Python) and Sak Pos (Snake Hair) were the turning point, as the films made me very famous both locally and internationally.

How do you compare today's films to the films of the past?

Dy Saveth:  All movie producers, writers and cameramen learned their craft at school in the past, except for the actors and actresses who listened to the producers' lead. Now, [they] learn the skills from each other. I never complained when I had to work very hard because I believed that at the end I would achieve success. I was lucky enough to work with good scriptwriters who tried to make each film different. Today, many actors and actresses are afraid of experiencing difficulties.

How many international movie stars have you worked with?

Dy Saveth: I have performed with Thai, Taiwanese, Korean, Indonesian and Chinese actors. King Sihanouk wrote and directed four films that I have appeared in. My latest film, In Drama, was filmed last year.  It is a 30-minute story about love and war, and it hasn't been released on TV yet.

How do you keep yourself looking so young?

Dy Saveth: I try to avoid unhappy things that make me feel depressed. Also, I think carefully about the type of food I eat to stay healthy and drink plenty of water.

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