Cambodia’s film industry was thriving during the 1950s and ’60s – dubbed the Golden Age. However, as with all of the country’s art forms, it was almost destroyed under the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975 to 1979. Recent years have seen huge efforts ploughed into reviving the Kingdom’s film industry. Here are 10 Cambodian actresses of past and present that you should know.
Considered a national treasure, Dy Saveth is one of Cambodia’s most beloved actresses from the Golden Age. She is also one of a handful to escape execution during the Khmer Rouge-era, having fled to France. In 1959, she was crowned Miss Cambodia and went on to star in a string of movies, including late King Norodom Sihanouk’s Twilight (1969), Bopha Angkor (1972) and Snake Girl (1974). She returned to Cambodia in 1993 and played traumatised mother and former famous actress Sothea in the award-winning The Last Reel.
As another surviving actress from the Golden Age, Virak Dara made a name for herself for her portrayal of Kong Rey in Puthisean Neang Kong Rey in 1967 – it remains Cambodia’s biggest movie to date. She is also known for playing Orn in the 1971 smash hit An Euil Srey An. Three of her films never made it to the screen, destroyed by the Khmer Rouge before being released. She fled Cambodia for France in 1977 with her husband.
Vichara Dany was one of many actresses to die under the Khmer Rouge regime. Making her acting debut in 1967, she starred in a string of smash hit films, including Thavory Meas Bing, Tep Sodachan and Sovann Pancha during the Golden Age. In her seven-year career, she was featured in more than 100 films. It is unknown how she died, but it is believed she became a victim of the Khmer Rouge shortly after they seized power of the country in 1975.
Sveng Socheata rose to international fame after starring as Loung Ung’s mother in Angelina Jolie’s Netflix hit, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, which was released in September 2017. The 38-year-old actress also stars in Amit Dubey’s psychological thriller Mind Cage, in which she plays the tormented wife of a psychiatrist. Sveng also features in Hex, a 2018 horror movie.
Controversial Cambodian actress Denny Kwan made international headlines in April 2017 after being slapped with a one-year ban from working in the entertainment industry by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. The young musician and actress had been hauled before a board of officials a year earlier to be “educated” about her sexy style – a warning she refused to heed. She pledged to tone down her dress, but we’re not so sure how that’s going.
Lida Duch started her path to acting after applying for Cambodian beauty pageant Spy Super Model. While she didn’t quite win, the TV show provided her with a platform to shine, and she was quickly snapped up on the film circuit. She made her successful debut in the 2015 action film Sbaek Kong and went on to scoop the best actress gong at the 2017 Cambodian International Film Festival. She has made a name for herself by playing strong female characters who defy traditional norms in Cambodia.
Bérénice Marlohe first shot to fame when she was cast as the 23rd Bond Girl in the 2012 James Bond outing Skyfall, starring alongside Daniel Craig. Half Cambodian, half French, the actress went on to star in 5 to 7, Revolt and the 2017 remake of Twin Peaks. She was born in Paris to a French mother and Cambodian father.
Keo Pich Pisey
Keo Pich Pisey is an actress, model and former dancer who is renowned for her performance as San Chhay in the F4 Cambodian film series. She holds the title of one of Cambodian’s most famous modern-day actresses, starring in Tokchet Ovpuk, Ath Bey, Kong Kam Kong Keo, Ros Cheat Chivith, Domnok Cheam Chong Krouy, Samoth Tok Sap, and recently Pka Thkol Sor and Sromol Krom Pnek.
Elodie Yung is French actress with a Cambodian father who has also taken Hollywood by storm. She starred in District 13: Ultimatum and featured in The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and most recently The Hitman’s Bodyguard. She was appointed patron of the 2018 Cambodian International Film Festival held in early 2018.
This Cambodian ballet dancer and actress starred in hundreds of films and thousands of karaoke videos throughout the 1980s and 1990s, making her a much-loved household name. Her life was cut bitterly short when she was gunned down at Phnom Penh’s Orussey Market in 1999 at the age of 34 in one of the country’s most high-profile killings of recent times.
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