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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rags to riches tale of Khmer movie queen

Rags to riches tale of Khmer movie queen

S HE'S 24, gorgeous, dimpled and a Khmer Cinderella in both movie-world and


She's Sok Srey Mom, the heroine of the tragi-romantic Mills and

Boon style love stories through which Khmers live out the kind of romantic

fantasies that have drawn crowds to movie theatres throughout the country for


A favorite of film-director King Norodom Sihanouk, Mom has

starred in over one hundred films, including three directed by His


She's now in the final days of shooting a film about corruption

written by the King.

She plays one of the three wives of a corrupt

ministry worker, and, uncharacteristically for Mom, the role is light-hearted

and comical.

Mom says she nearly always plays sad roles, in which the

heroine is a poor girl from the provinces who suffers


"Whenever the directors come across a sad role they call me,"

she says in the high-pitched nasal voice so familiar on Khmer



But it's not just the whims of directors' that put Mom in the role of tragic

heartbreak heroine - she likes to play them because, she says, that was her


She grew up in poverty in Kompong Som province until the Pol Pot

regime, when she was sent to work in the fields of Kompong Speu and lost her


But when Mom was a 19-year old high-school student wandering

through Phnom Penh's Kabko market she was spotted by a film director and asked

to play the lead role in a movie.

"My real story has a happy ending," she

agrees, "and I have a new life, but I knew heartbreak once, like


Her debut film, "At Sunset I Never Forget My Love", began a

string of poor heartbroken film roles.

It tells the story of the son of

wealthy parents who is forbidden to marry his lover, a penniless orphan with a

fatal brain disease.

"This is a typical Khmer situation," explains Mom.

"Upper-class families don't like their sons to marry into lower


Mom starred in the two most recent films directed by King

Sihanouk between September and November last year in North Korea and


"The Rich Man who Helps Poor People" and "Fear of Keo Moneth"

are expected to be released some time this year.

Mom is among the top

four film actresses riding the crest of the revived Cambodian film industry now,

but it's a wave she sees as on the verge of crashing.

The industry

enjoyed a brief revival in the late 1980's following a Czechoslovakian-directed

film in 1986, the first film to be made in Cambodia after the Pol Pot


Sixty film production companies grew up around the flourishing

industry from the late 1980's to the early 1990's, but according to Mom the

number of production companies has plummeted to ten.

"I think the

industry is declining and heading for collapse because no-one wants to invest in

this country because it's so unstable," explained Mom, who is married to a

police captain.

She says the industry is also under threat by the flood

of foreign movies, largely from Thailand, Hong Kong and China, that are dubbed

into Khmer.

If the local film industry collapses, Mom says she'll

concentrate on her singing career and possibly act in the occasional overseas


But as yet she's had no overseas offers and says none could

tempt her to move abroad anyway.

She said: "I want to stay in my country,

even if there's no film industry."



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