Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - At home with Dy Saveth, actress

At home with Dy Saveth, actress

At home with Dy Saveth, actress

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Dy Saveth has been in the national spotlight ever since she won Cambodia's first beauty pageant in 1959. She has acted in around 100 films in the intervening period, but it would have been many more had her career not been interrupted by the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

That she was able to resume her career at all was due to the fact that she and her then-husband Huoy Ken  were able to escape to France as the regime began to take control.

It wasn't until 1993 that she returned to the surprise of a nation that had assumed that she - like more than a million others - had perished during the years of repression under the ultra-Maoist regime.

Today, the 64-year-old is back doing what she loves most and is also working with the next generation of Khmer actors as a professor of fine arts at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

She now lives in a modest penthouse apartment in Sangkat Boeun Tompoun in Phnom Penh's Meanchey district, though her two children from her marraige to Huoy Ken live in Paris.

Her walls are lined with memories of her past. Many of the photographs are from the set of her many movies, but it is the photographs from her life in France that she says move her the most. The walls are also adorned with her own artwork, line drawings based on her experiences.

She says she likes to have her house open to nature, preferring to open a window to cool her house rather than rely on air conditioning. Through her bedroom windows she draws comfort from the moon and night sky.

Plants and flowers are also important to her - she begins her day by tending to the plants on her balcony. "I like flowers as much as life itself,"she says. "Especially roses."

The interiors are designed in what she describes as Khmer-style. "Because I respect my culture, I decorate in the Khmer style only," she says. "The modern-style is too cluttered for my tastes."

She is also fond of Khmer handicrafts, saying she likes to be surrounded by things "made by Khmer hands".

Her Buddhist heritage is represented by a shrine in the corner of her living room.

To relax, she is fond of having a glass of red wine in her hammock and watching the television  or listening to music. When she feels more energetic, she practices the guitar or keyboards, or makes clothes at her sewing machine. "I don't want to be unhappy, so I take care of myself and do whatever I want to make my life happy," she says.

Home cooking is a key to combining health and happiness, she adds. Her favorite dish is Khmer soup, of which she makes many different variants,  though she likes cook French food for her friends and family.

"I learned to cook French food when I stayed in Paris for about 20 years," she says. "So, when I have free time, I invite my friends to my home to eat."

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