On March 26th, the 12th Cambodia International Film Festival(CIFF) began its mini-preview of the festival with CIFF “Sprouts” at Chaktomuk Hall, Phnom
Over 600 people attended the opening gala, which screened the 86-minute
documentary The Perfect Motion by French director Xavier Lauzanne. The film follows the creation of a show called Metamorphosis by the late Princess Norodom Buppha Devi and the history of the Royal Ballet of Cambodia. The gala also included a special performance of Khmer Ballet called the Robam Preah Thaung by students of the Princess Buppha Devi
School. His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath NORODOM SIHAMONI, King
of Cambodia, was in attendance.
CIFF is the largest and most prestigious film event in Southeast Asia and the Kingdom of Cambodia. It welcomes filmmakers and guests from around the world and showcases a wide range of films. The festival aims to inspire audiences with the diversity of films, promote innovative international filmmaking in various forms, and present quality productions made in and about Cambodia by national and international filmmakers.
CIFF “SPROUTS” sessions are scheduled from March 29th to April 1st, featuring daily special events that will highlight some of the themes that will be developed during the upcoming 12th Edition. This includes African Cult Comedies, Vietnamese cinema, and fun films from the golden age of Cambodia’s cinema, such as The Snake Girl Drops In, directed by Kuang Huy and featuring Dy Saveth.
On March 29th, CIFF “SPROUTS” opens at 6 pm at the French Institute with a screening of The Li’le Girl Who Sold the Sun. This 1999 Senegalese short film was directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty and premiered after his death in 1998. It tells the story of a young beggar girl, Sili, who becomes the first girl to sell the “Le Soleil” newspaper in a city of obstacles. The film is part of a series entitled “Tales of Ordinary People” and is played by non-professional actors and with the participation of street children. The film will be introduced by CIFF Director Cedric Eloy and IFC Director Valentin Rodriguez.
At 7:15 pm, there will be a special screening of the classic 60s Khmer film, The Snake Girl Drops In. This movie, directed by Houy Keung and featuring Dy Saveth, tells the story of a young snake girl who is abducted by raiders in the jungle. It holds significant historical importance as it was made during the peak of Cambodia’s “Golden Age” of cinema, and was even screened in Taiwan and France with a French dub.
Filmmaker Davy Chou, who is internationally acclaimed and was on the Oscar shortlist, will introduce the screening as a tribute to this era of Cambodian film. He has extensively studied the country’s film industry history and notes that despite the civil war that ravaged the country, the cinemas in Phnom Penh remained a popular source of entertainment due to the blocked roads caused by the Khmer Rouge’s control. He remembers how the film under the name, La Viper du Karaté in France, was part of the popular action martial arts genre at the time. Chou believes that the civil war was one of the reasons why so many films were produced during that time.
Dy Saveth, The Iconic Snake Girl
One of the most notable faces of the golden age of Khmer cinema is Dy Saveth. Born and raised in Phnom Penh, Saveth became interested in foreign films in the 1950s. She reluctantly entered the film industry at the age of 19 after winning Miss Cambodia. Saveth’s most famous film, Snake Girl (1974), had her allowing live snakes to slither over her body while wearing a Medusa-like headdress made with dozens of live baby snakes. The film was one of several on the reptilian theme, following the success of the internationally acclaimed Snake King’s Daughter.
Dy Saveth, the renowned actress who played the role of Snake Girl in the iconic Khmer film, has revealed her experiences during filming. Despite her fear of snakes, Saveth wore live snakes on her head for her role in the movie. She said, ‘If I could not handle it, then I am not a professional actress, no matter how scared I was.’ She encountered numerous challenges while filming, including performing actions that were new to her, getting hit for real during the action scenes, and crying on cue.
But she remained resilient and passionate about her craft. Saveth’s acting career was cut short by the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror. She fled to France and survived, unlike many of her fellow performers. However, she returned to Cambodia in 1993 and resumed her acting career after being recognized on the street by an employee of the Cambodia National Television.
Saveth, along with her co-partner Hui Keung, started a production company named Sovann Kiri, making her a pioneering force in Cambodia’s film industry. She is one of the few surviving performing artists who have witnessed Cambodia’s film industry evolve over the years. Despite the obstacles and challenges she faced, Saveth has become an inspiration to many in the Cambodian film industry and beyond.
Reflecting on her role as Snake Girl, Saveth said, ‘People always ask me if the snakes were rubber fakes, I told them it was real, even the fights were real, and had many injuries from it. She even had a snake bite her in the cheeks, but stayed in character until the scene was over. Luckily the snakes were non poisonous. “I’m thankful for the experience and for the role of the snake girl,” Saveth states. Her portrayal of Snake Girl in the movie became a legendary performance and continues to inspire many in Cambodia’s film industry.
Written by Sotheavy Nou