Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 7 Questions with Dy Saveth



7 Questions with Dy Saveth

Dy Saveth, actress and former beauty queen
Dy Saveth, actress and former beauty queen. Saveth was lucky enough to be outside the country when Pol Pot came to power. Will Jackson

7 Questions with Dy Saveth

Dy Saveth is one of the most beloved actresses from the 1960s era of Cambodian film – and one of the few to escape death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. The former beauty queen appeared in dozens of films including favourites such as Norodom Sihanouk’s Twilight and was lucky enough to be outside the country when Pol Pot overran Phnom Penh. After 18 years in France, she returned to Cambodia in 1993 and has since become a regular in Cambodian films and on television, as well as inspiring a new generation of actresses as a fine arts teacher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. In the soon to be released and much-anticipated film The Last Reel, she plays a famous Cambodian actress in the twilight of her life. Will Jackson spoke with her.

Why did you decide to be a part of The Last Reel?
I liked the script because this is a real story, not a copy. When you watch television these days so many Cambodian films just copy the stories from overseas – from Thailand or China or Vietnam. I don’t know why they don’t come up with their own ideas. In Cambodia we have a lot of stories to tell.

What are the similarities between you and the character you play in the film?
I was never told if the character was based on me. We’re actually quite different because the actress I play stayed in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge, whereas I left. If I had stayed I probably would have been killed. I think about it sometimes, how lucky I am. In March 1975, I went to Thailand to visit my children who were studying there. I wanted to come back to Cambodia but there were no flights. I tried to organise a taxi and they told me I was crazy so I stayed and then went to France.

The young actress Mary Neth plays your daughter in the film. Did you have any advice or tips for her?
She’s a very nice and charming young woman. She had no need of any of my help.

What do you think of the current generation of actresses?
Most just want to be beautiful and glamorous. They don’t care so much about the story. The films these days tend to avoid difficult subjects. The writers just focus on rich, modern families, not on real situations, such as people living in poverty, so that the actors can remain beautiful. Before the Khmer Rouge the stories were about real life, about the people in the villages.

What’s it like making a film now compared to before the Khmer Rouge?
It’s much easier and quicker. Special effects that would have required cumbersome camera work back then can just be done on computers afterwards. Before, if I was in a film and there were two of me, people would leave the cinema in awe saying: “How was there two Dy Saveths in that film?”. Now people just know that it’s a computer doing the work.

You had an 18-year break between leaving Cambodia your return. Why did you start making films again?
When I went to France I became another woman. I never talked about being an actress. During that time I was only recognised once. I was working as a flower arranger with a florist in Paris and a Cambodian woman came into the shop. After a few moments, she exclaimed: “You’re Dy Saveth! I recognise your lips and your eyes.” After she left the shop, to tell her husband who she had met, my manager turned to me. “You were an actress?” he asked. Even when I came back to Cambodia in 1993, I wore a big hat and glasses so no one would realise who I was, but then one day a man who worked for a television station recognised my voice. He put me on television and I’ve been in 10 films since then. I think it’s my destiny to be in films. Every time I try and do something else, I cannot.

What are your plans for future projects?
I would like to continue acting in other people’s films. I also have a few ideas for films. One of the stories I’m working on is about the poor children that sell flowers and small desserts in the street. But I want to produce it with my own money. I don’t want to have other people telling me how to do it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa