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Where EAST meets the Northwest

GOLDEN CHILD. Unmistaken Child, a documentary following the four-year journey of Geshe Tenzin Zopa, a Tibetan monk charged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama with finding the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, opens Friday, July 10 at Portlandís Fox Tower Cinema. (Photos courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

From The Asian Reporter, V19, #26 (July 7, 2009), page 11.

In search of a saintly soul

Unmistaken Child

Directed by Nati Baratz

Co-produced by Samsara Films and Alma Films

Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories

Opening Friday, July 10 at Portlandís Fox Tower Cinema

By Ronault L.S. Catalani

For more than 700 years Tibetan Buddha lamas have been studying and shaping their unique worldview, all the while gently guiding their faithful. Seven hundred years of rigorous inward examination, undisturbed by nasty urban distractions or by grubby outside cultural influences, has produced extraordinary metaphysics.

Despite His Holiness the Dalai Lamaís humble insistence that their monastic product is simply a matter of verifiable common sense, few would argue that Tibetan Buddha Dharma priests donít also present the rest of our planet with a profound portal into the mystery of human existence.

Unmistaken Child is a slice of that action, just a piece of those priestsí traditional practice. Filmmaker Nati Baratz manages this enormous spiritual enterprise with much the same apparent simplicity of his subject matter. His sliver of the dharma pie is a story about Lama Konchog Rimpocheís departure from one discrete life and his subsequent return to earth in the body of another. Reincarnation.

Rebirth ó a proposition sounding as commonplace as it sounds improbable. But as the Dalai Lama is wont to say: Donít just believe it, try it (try Mr. Baratzís movie, not recycling your soul) and judge for yourself.

Two kinds of true love

Unmistaken Child follows the loop between earthly lives of world-renowned cleric and teacher Geshe Lama Konchog. Mr. Baratzís eye follows the late-Lama Konchogís sad-sad student determinedly helicoptering and hiking up and down rocky Himalaya highlands, searching for the transmigrated soul of his beloved teacher in the little bones of a village boy. The young monk, Geshe Tenzin Zopa, is guided by that rarified Tibetan tech developed by those venerable masters over all those centuries already mentioned. It must be done because Lama Konchong isnít done with his work among us.

This is a journey of self-discovery and worldly enlightenment, charmingly consistent with the Western road-film genre. Mr. Baratzís long lens lingers even longer moments on the conflicted eyes of mothers and fathers at once understanding the spiritual significance of the stubborn monkís search (their little guy could be a very old soul committed to reducing the quantum of planet earthís suffering) ó while capturing in the exact same parental moment, the pain of giving up their precious baby boy. Two kinds of true love.

Sure, thereís more. Like: How a wobbly and short toddler, wise as a lama, passes the scrutiny of his Tibetan Buddha Sangha hierarchy, including the 14th Dalai Lama, Geshe Tenzin Gyatso ó Yes, him. His Holiness is in this film too.

So much more is presented and nuanced by director Baratzís patiently paced film. He sets out a gentle and muscular magic. Itís a lovely journey. Just like our noisy planetís silent arch, spinning through all that space. All that mystery.

Unmistaken Child opens Friday, July 10 at Portlandís Fox Tower Cinema, located at 846 S.W. Park Avenue. For more information, including showtimes, call 1-800-326-3264, ext. 327. To read about the cast and crew, film festival honors, and other reviews, visit <www.unmistakenchild.com>.