Adelina Pussineri, Raquel Zalazar, Federico ….
© Perceval Press/Museo Etnografico Andres Barbero.
At what point did Adelina Pussineri, director of the Museo Etnográfico Andrés Barbero, know that the Hollywood actor, Viggo Mortensen, was joining up with the Argentine researchers, Diego Villar and Federico Bossert, to make a book about the work of the German scientist, Max Schmidt?
She responded, "When we opened the door here," and she pointed at the door next to the desk, in the office that she occupies which is situated in the monumental edifice of the museum located at 217 Avenida España, between Mompox and United States.
Pussineri went back to that May of 2009: "One day they called me on the telephone and said to me, 'We are on our way to Asunción.'" The previous month, Bossert had asked for some paper copies of the photos as samples.
They told us, "We're going to be in Asunción on Monday, with the editor who's interested," she remembered, along with Raquel Zalazar, who is also responsible for the management of the institution, founded in June of 1929 by Barbero.
"It was cold, so the door was closed and it was 3:00 in the afternoon. When someone knocked at the door, we stood up to open it - the two of them, and him behind [them]. And the only thing I managed to say was 'Ah, I saw you on Tinelli'" [tr. note: TV program on which he was a guest], recalled Adelina, sharing the amusement of the moment. " I recognized him instantly, but it wasn´t because of The Lord of the Rings; I hadn´t seen it," she added.
Mortensen himself explained his interest in making a book with Max Schmidt's photos, and his arrival coincided with a commission meeting that the Fundación La Piedad, the administrators of the museum, were holding that evening. So the next day he already had permission, and at 8:00 in the morning, the actor was already there with his maté things, excited to look at the original glass plates.
"He was absolutely astonished at everything he saw," she said. "Every photo he saw was a surprise. The poor things had to hold them up to the light and they selected them that way. Of course, they could check them against the paper copies."
"The last few days we even ate here; the lady we had as a cleaner (Rumilda) cooked vori vori, a Paraguayan soup for him…. He was always drinking maté. The first thing he did was drink maté," Pussineri mentioned.
"He took photos of us all the time, but he didn't like them much." The director jumped ahead to last Friday, [the day] that the presentation of Sons of the Forest took place. "When he arrived here and showed us the book, he also drove us crazy taking photos. He took photos of all of us looking at the book."
In the four years that have passed since Mortensen´s first visit, Pussineri has kept herself updated on the filmography of the New York born actor whose childhood was spent in Argentina. Although she only watched half of the first Lord of the Rings film, she liked A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.
About the event in the Foundation's auditorium, Adelina said, "I felt a great flood of emotion that day; it was like reliving the beginning of the museum. To see so many people in attendance, perhaps because of a public figure like Viggo Mortensen. But it didn't matter, because above all, I think the public figure of Viggo Mortensen was surpassed by Max Schmidt's great work and by the two anthropologists who created a wonderful piece of work. You could feel that when they spoke."