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Cannes film festival 2010

Cambodia's Preap Sovath

Text by: Dyna Seng
3 min

Cambodia’s best-known celebrity is actor and singer Preap Sovath. Immensely popular in his home country, Sovath has a talent for keeping his audience interested. Above all, he's a singer, but few will doubt his talent on the big screen.


Appearing in everything from music videos, to film, Sorvath's exploits in 2007 earned him the top honour at the Cambodian Film Festival. For Sovath, the biggest challenge was not simply becoming a celebrity, but remaining one - he confided to RFI.

In Cambodia, new stars appear every day: They are born at nightfall and then disappear as soon as the sun rises, making way for those to come the night after. It’s rare for an actor to survive longer than three years. As a result, they tend to adopt a similar, rigid, style and find it difficult to adapt to the tastes of the public.

Sovath, to the contrary, knew how to conserve his popularity. He’s been the country’s highest-billed star for almost 20 years. It all started when he began singing in 1990, at a time when Cambodian cinema was not yet developed.

Apart from foreign films, karaoke music clips were all the graced screens in Cambodia. Sovath, a singer but also a talented actor, quickly joined Hang Meas, the biggest producer of music video clips in Cambodia.

Year after year, Sovath knew how to evolve along with the changing tastes of his fans. He did not hesitate to reinvent the style of his songs, nor the way he sang them. Moreover, he sang everything (from rock and pop to Khmer folk) and ensured everyone could see themselves in these clips – the young, the less young, the townsmen and the countrymen.

It was in 2005 when Sovath decided to dedicate himself to the big screen. He rediscovered himself in the film The Crocodile Hunter, playing nothing less that the hero. It was his film debut – but it was also his greatest cinematic success.

Today in Cambodia, the film market is in decline, largely because intellectual property rights are not respected: from the date of their release, and sometimes even before, films are copied and sold at an unbeatable price. As a result, cinemas are closing one after another and the producers are profiting less and less.

At 35 years of age, a married father of three, Sovath is continuing on his journey, all the while enchanting his public.

His success is not just thanks to his voice and acting prowess, but also to the manner in which he manages his private life. A stable and solid married life is paramount in a traditionally conservative society such as Cambodia's.

While most Cambodian celebrities are often tainted by sex scandals, Sovath is known to be a family man.

For his part, Sorvath hopes to continue his career along the same trajectory – at least for now. “I love art - and I love my career my as an artist, as it has allowed me step out of the void and become a celebrity.”

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