Doc Blog

- 2008
- 2007
- 2006

For all that we hear about the Dali Lama, the persecution of Tibetan culture and the admirable tenets of Buddhism, we in the West generally still don’t have a very thorough understanding of the actual mechanics, inner workings and rituals of Buddhism. We know that lamas, enlightened holy men, are believed to be reincarnated, but how exactly is a reincarnated lama identified? How is one located? What steps or rituals are enacted to ensure that a lama is not mistaken? And since lamas are generally brought into the monastery as young children, what kind of impact does this have on the lama’s family, who must choose to literally give their child up for the sake of a higher calling?

All of these questions are not only addressed but observed in gentle, evocative detail by Isareli filmmaker Nati Baratz’s sensitive camera in Unmistaken Child, which had its world premiere at TIFF Monday night at the Scotia no less than 10 days after coming to completion. Unmistaken Child follows the four-year quest of Tenzin Zopa (pictured above), a 28-year-old Nepalese monk who, having lived 21 years as a devoted disciple to Tibetan master Lama Konchog, is assigned the task of following various cryptic spiritual clues to find the reincarnated child of his beloved master. Having achieved this miraculous task after a long and gruelling search, Tenzin then becomes a kind of surrogate father to the child, a teacher to his former master. 

Their unique and touching interpersonal dynamic comes to reflect many of the central tenets and beliefs of the Buddhist faith, and ultimately forms the heart of this fascinating film, providing many of its most memorable moments. My personal favourite is when the 4-year-old child rests in Tenzin’s arms and points at a picture of Lama Konchog and declares, “There’s me.” Then looks at a picture of his young self and adds “There’s me too. They’re both me!”

Don’t miss your chance to see two incarnations of the film in AMC 4 and 5 on Thursday at 5:45, or again on Friday at 12:45pm at Varsity 2.