Movie Review: ‘Unmistaken Child’

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: For Tenzin Zopa, a young Nepalese monk, finding the reincarnation of his dead Tibetan master, Geshe Lama Konchog, is more important to him than his own life.

Since he was 6, Tenzin Zopa dreamed of becoming a disciple of Lama Konchog. While his parents hoped that he would marry and work someday, Tenzin envisioned a life of meditation.

As a young boy, he asked Lama Konchog to take him in, abandoned the material world and learned the rules of the monastic life from one of the most revered monks of Tibet. Twenty-one years later, the death of Lama Konchog left a glaring void in Tenzin’s heart.

In Nati Baratz’s captivating documentary “Unmistaken Child,” we follow a heartbroken Tenzin as he embarks on a four-year search to find the person who gave his life a sense of purpose and direction. How difficult such a journey must be for someone who already feels lost.

‘Unmistaken Child’
Rating: Not rated but PG in nature.
In English, Tibetan, Hindi and Nepali with English subtitles.

As Tenzin travels from village to village, looking for a child 12 to 18 months old, he is faced with disappointment, worry and joy. Presenting Lama Konchog’s rosary beads to child after child, he finally encounters one who won’t let go.

The sense of relief and contentment that follows shows that the film is not only about a journey to find a “special child,” but also about Tenzin’s ability to cope with a devastating loss. As he grows closer with the child, Tenzin is revealed as a humble, compassionate and sensitive person, ready to give the rest of his life to continue serving his long-lost master.

“Unmistaken Child” presents us with a remarkable search for spiritual balance, juxtaposed with shots of beautiful mountains and “dancing” trees.

The scenery is breathtaking but it is not enough to account for the film’s only flaw — its informational holes. For those unfamiliar with Buddhist thought, Baratz’s documentary may generate more questions than answers.

After four years, the search comes to an end, and the child is accepted as the reincarnated Lama Konchog. His parents agree to give him up and he must now live the rest of his life as a monk, in meditation and with the purpose of saving all sentient beings.

In one scene, the boy is faced with a portrait of the departed Lama Konchog and, after staring at it, he eerily says, “That is me.” The moment seems to be as surprising to Tenzin as it is to the audience. But, then again, it’s hard (and perhaps this is simply a foreign outsider’s reaction) not to see the child as any other normal young boy, wanting only to play and be held by his grandmother.

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