Unmistaken Child

"Good"

Unmistaken Child Review


The new documentary Unmistaken Child, written and directed by first-time director Nati Baratz, takes the search for the returning spirit of the recently passed Geshe Lama Konchong, a praised Rinpoche Lama, as high drama. It is being released by Oscilloscope Pictures, the indie distribution company responsible for housing Wendy and Lucy and the lovely Treeless Mountain. It is also the company run by Adam Yauch, one-third of the Beastie Boys and a spearhead of the Tibetan Freedom Concerts that went on from 1996 to 2001. By releasing Baratz's film, he has found yet another venue in which to impart his fascination with these oddly jubilant, somewhat nomadic people.

At first, the focus is on monk Tenzin Zopa, Konchong's Heart Disciple and attendant for over 20 years. It is Zopa's charge to scour the Tsum Valley of Nepal for Konchong's reincarnated being. According to the remnants of Geshe's pyre, he had an almost immediate reincarnation and readings by a Taiwanese astrologist give him the hints that the child's father's name will start with an "A" and that the letters "Ts" hold a crucial clue to the location. Spiritual quest as scavenger hunt, one may think.

Like upcoming dolphin-activist documentary The Cove and last year's Man on Wire, Unmistaken Child has the structure and pacing of fiction. Whereas the aforementioned films evoke thrillers in form, Unmistaken Child emulates foreign arthouse dramas of the most polarized sort. Little Buddha, this is not: Zopa's travels are silent, humble, and recurring until he finds a toddler near his home village that picks out Geshe's rosary and will not give it back.

What follows is a nimble but rudimentary procedural as this child, now past his first birthday, begins to face counsels, tests, and inquiries into his very being. Baratz's style is sober and plainspoken, though there is something to be said about how, as the child is examined, the viewer begins to question both the ceremonial aspects of the culture and Baratz's inclusion. In fact, the Israeli-born filmmaker's biggest problem is a happy accident: He has introduced us to such an isolated way of life that we inevitably have more questions than his 100-minute doc can answer.

Baratz's film works best when it is dedicated to Zopa and the child. It is, in actuality, a very rough but dedicated character study, one that maps how Buddhist monks communicate to one another and how their relationships are formed. I was reminded at moments of Philip Gröning's superior, meditative Into Great Silence, where the viewer wandered the dusty, echoing halls of the Grande Chartreuse with the Carthusian monks. Unmistaken Child never invites us to fully understand Buddhism nor does it try to recreate the supposed moments of enlightenment. It is about the people who believe in Buddhism and how fundamentally human they are despite their reclusive nature. I'll add one thing: In comparison to the grueling inquiries over the child and Zopa's journey, a couple of years at seminary looks like a frat party.



Unmistaken Child

Facts and Figures

Run time: 102 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 4th June 2009

Box Office Worldwide: $302 thousand

Distributed by: Ocilloscope Pictures

Production compaines: Samsara Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 29 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Nati Baratz

Producer: Nati Baratz, Arik Bernstein, Ilil Alexander

Starring: Tenzin Zopa as Tenzin Zopa

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