Veteran South African casting director and agent Moonyeenn Lee has died aged 76 in Johannesburg, following complications from the coronavirus.
Lee worked for almost five decades in the industry, building a formidable and illustrious career working on movies including The Bang Bang Club, Disgrace, Oscar-winner Tsotsi, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Machine Gun Preacher, Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond, Eye In The Sky, Mandela And De Klerk, Life, Above All and Black Panther.
She also carried out local casting on series including Homeland, The Prisoner, Warrior and The Hot Zone. She received Primetime Emmy nominations for Roots and The Looming Tower.
According to Lee’s associates she became the first South African member of both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Television Academy.
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In 2003, Lee was nominated to the National Executive Committee of the Independent Producer’s Organisation and to the Film Board of Create South Africa. In the same year, she formed Khulisa Productions with Promised Land the first film produced by the banner. In 2017, she received the Lionel Ngakane Lifetime Achievement Award from the South African Film & Television Awards.
A statement from Moonyeenn Lee Associates read: “Work was central to her life. Her actors were her family. The directors and producers she worked with were all her friends. She was brutally honest, a bit too much for some, but she believed in saying things as they were. Her quick wit, her wicked sense of humor and deep understanding of her craft made her interesting company. Her family and friends will remember her for her generosity and kindness to those in need, for her fighting spirit as well as for her unwavering commitment to the local industry….Moonyeenn helped shape the lives of many actors, directors and writers through her fierce honesty and passion. The South African film industry has lost an icon and a formidable champion of the arts. She will be sorely missed by us all.”
Local and international tributes have poured in for Lee.
Black Panther actor John Kani, who was repped by Lee, said on Twitter: “My agent, my friend, my sister passed away last night. RIP Moonyeenn Lee. I truly have no words to express grief. Thank you for everything. Elder”
South Africa’s Ministry for Sport, Art and Culture called Lee “a colossal” figure:
UK casting director Jina Jay called Lee a “great woman”:
Lee is survived by her daughter, Cindy Lee, her son, David Lee and her pets, Hitchcock, Eva and Spice.
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