“Sydney Maree is one of the world’s fastest runners. There’s no argument about that. The controversy is over whether he is the hero, or the villain, or the victim, of a tale that might have been written by Horatio Alger and Franz Kafka.” – Bob Lipsyte, CBS
South African expatriate Sydney Maree became a voice against apartheid some 30 years ago. Today his family is figting to give voice to Maree’s struggle for freedom in the country it says has wrongly imprisoned hi, accusing him of fraud while CEO of National Empowerment Fund, a government-owned corporation that provides small business loans to black-run companies, and thwarted his family’s attempts to make contact.
In the upcoming feature documentary, Maree v. State, Maree’s son, Daniel Maree, explores the life of his father, whose career serves as a metaphor for the evolution of the South African state, from Apartheid to modern democracy, tracing the parallels between Maree’s personal story and the historical, political and cultural contexts within which his life can be understood. Of particular interest are the ways in which his experiences can reveal inconvenient national truths, which have been covered up or subsumed in official histories and collective memory.
A little background… Maree was an All-America at Villanova and set a world record for the 1,500 meters in 1983. He then became a U.S. citizen and competed at the ’88 Olympics while South Africa was banned from the Games because of its separatist policies. Maree returned to South Africa in 1995 with his wife and five children and later took over as CEO of National Empowerment Fund, a government-owned corporation that provides small business loans to black-run companies. In 2004, Maree was charged with fraud. He pleaded not guilty but was convicted in ’06. Maree claims his troubles began when he questioned a government superior who had instructed him to offer an NEF contract to Deutsche Bank without conducting a proper tendering process. Maree, 55, was convicted two years later but didn’t begin serving his sentence until last June. According to Maree’s son Daniel, 24, authorities would not release his whereabouts to his family, which had been unable to locate him for months. “The legal system is still rife with delays and corruption,” says Daniel. Maree’s 10-year sentence was commuted to five because he had been under virtual house arrest while his case dragged on. “Perhaps he can be a source of change again,” says Daniel. “This isn’t about Sydney Maree. It’s about due process.”
Fascinating story there, and I’m definitely intrigued, and want to see more of this.
The film successfully raised over $10,000 last fall, enough to get the film into production – a film that the director calls more than just a film, but also a campaign for South Africa’s “Second Chapter” – the realization of the ideals of the liberation struggle: economic equality, democracy, and good governance.
No ETA on when we can expect to see the completed work.
Watch the fundraising promo below: