Cambodian actor Savin Phillip quit a promising movie career in the 1990s to carve out a future in the burgeoning hospitality industry. But now he’s on the movie comeback trail, landing some choice roles in new international productions.
And while he is busy at this, he pays allegiance to his good fortune by doing good works in Siem Reap, helping poor families get access to potable water.
Phillip was selected as one of the Khmer actors to work in a new international movie that started production last month. The movie, Before the Fall, is directed by Australian filmmaker Ian White and revolves around a four day love triangle in the Kingdom in 1975. Most of the actors in this movie are foreigners and the script is in English.
He also landed a role in the Khmer language cartoon satire movie, Hanuman: Year of the Monkey, directed by Italian filmmaker Jimmy Henderson. This production will be screened in Cambodia next month, and Phillip plays the role of a ruthless gangster.
But while he is busy with his rejuvenated movie career, his passion is also with his Savin Cambodia Project, which has a mission to help Siem Reap province children to get clean water in their communities.
Recently his project handed over two clean wells to the Preah Dak primary school in Banteay Srei district, and another five wells to poor families in the Bakong district.
“First, we just donated 2,500 books to 700 students,” Phillip said. “But then we noticed there were no clean water wells in the school so we helped them with that.
“We are trying to help poor children and disabled people and their families to access safe and clean drinking water to use in their daily lives. Moreover, we provided bicycles, school uniforms, books, and help provide sanitary toilets to any poor families who can build the toilets for themselves.”
He said the idea of helping poor and disabled people came from his mother, Noeu Savin, who is a retired Khmer professor from Santhomok High School in Phnom Penh.
“She taught me to do good things since I was young as my father and my only brother and sister were killed in the Pol Pot regime,” he said. “I do love her, so I decided to place her name as my project’s name.”
One of the two wells installed in the Preah Dak primary school was donated by Khai Praseth, another well-known actor in the 1980s and 1990s, who is now living in Australia.
Khai Praseth’s former wife, Piseth Pilika, was a Cambodian ballet dancer and actress who appeared in hundreds of movies during the 1980s and the 1990s. Her career was tragically ended in 1999 when she was gunned down by an unknown gunman while shopping at a market in Phnom Penh.
Khai Praseth dedicated the well that he donated to the students and teachers at Preah Dak primary school to his former wife.
Wells costs from at least $300 up to $2,000 and each well donation carries a signboard of the donor’s name. The Savin Cambodia Project was established in early this year and to date has helped install 42 clean water wells in Siem Reap and Takeo.
Phillip commenced his acting career in 1995 but quit in 1996, opting to concentrate on his hotel management position with Raffles hotel group. In 2009 he became general manager of the Independence Hotel Resort and Spa in Sihanoukville, and left this job in 2012 to resume his acting career.
He is now working as one of the main actors in a new 60-episode Khmer musical TV series, Roneat Snea, being shot in Siem Reap after having quit briefly.
The production was mired in controversy last month when the crew and actors claimed they were bedeviled by spirits during the early part of shooting, and after that Phillip quit the movie after nightmares about one of the main locations, the Bong Thom Homestay.
When the location was switched, he returned to the movie.
“I stopped for a while and when I heard that the director moved to a new site for shooting, that was good news for me,” he said, “I feel much better now.”
He said he had recurring nightmares about a lady ghost when he was staying at a house that was rented for the actors near Bong Thom Homestay. He moved to rented accommodation in Siem Reap city but the nightmares continued.
“I could not stand those freaky things. The spirit came to me every night to wake me up, and I do not want to mess around with spirits.”
He quit the movie for a time and moved to Phnom Penh to consult a monk, and the day after he left Siem Reap a woman with a two-month old baby who was associated with the Bong Thom Homestay committed suicide in her house in Siem Reap city.
“That night the movie team called me about this,” Phillip said. “She killed herself by hanging and I do not know what exactly happened. I never had these kinds of scary things happen in my movie career life before.
“Some people say that I made up the story about the spirit to gain more attention. But I believe no one dares mess around with ghosts or spirits, and I also do not want to get more popularity this way.”
To contact the Savin Cambodia Project, email: [email protected] or phone 017 477 878 or 012 391 321.