Thursday, August 6, 2009

Swiss Review Interview

My project is highlighted in the August 2009 U.S. regional edition of the Swiss Review. A big thanks to Wal Baur & Hilda Birchmeier for their time and effort on my behalf.

From Family History to Documentary
What if you were lucky enough to hold a genuine 150 year old diary of a world explorer in your own hands? What if that explorer was one of your ancestors? You would likely re-experience the same journey over and over by reading it, wondering how the world traveler felt at the time, what were his joys and his fears.

Swiss-American Jean François de Buren’s great-great-grandfather Henri de Buren left Switzerland in the early 1850s and headed for the Americas. Along the way, the world traveler had a steady friend and loyal companion: his diary. Carefully written in his handwriting, the man documented his journey vigilantly, as well as illustrating his experiences artistically. Henri landed in the US, traveled America and Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Brazil.

Henri was a man born into privilege and wealth but part of that privilege vanished when noble titles became purely ceremonial in the canton of Neuchâtel where he lived. He was moved to travel to the Americas by Alexander von Humbolt’s accounts of the flora and fauna of Latin America. And he was certainly intrigued by the customs, lifestyles and politics of the new world. He would travel the Americas not only as a trained botanist, but also as a man of culture, stopping often to paint, engage in intellectual discourses with his contemporaries and document his observations in his journal and letters home to his family.

His journal entries and letters ultimately paint a complex and nuanced portrait of a young man finding his identity. He comes across as a man of high principle and ideals but also as a classist. These passages are tempered by others that show his reverence for nature, and appreciation for human ingenuity. Henri ultimately left on a trip of scientific discovery and in the end found himself.

Four generations later, great-great-grandson Jean François de Buren has a dream. He wants to put together a documentary. He sees himself as the narrator of a movie, a reflection or a documentary about his great-great-grandfather’s life and journey.

However Jean-François is in need of financial support and welcomes assistance to help him realize the dream many of us have. He is convinced that he will contribute his talent and knowledge to make this project a success. He hopes for the interest of a film studio or private venture to knock at his door. No, he has not contacted Mr. Spielberg – but who knows? What do YOU think – Share your houghts; Jean-François de Buren looks forward to hearing from you at “”.

You can also get more information on his great-great-grandfather and the preparation of his journey by visiting his blog at


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