Unmistaken Child | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Unmistaken Child

A gentle but fervent quest to find a reincarnated Buddhist lama

The titular child is the reincarnation of a recently deceased Buddhist master, and Nati Baratz's documentary is about the five-year quest to find this elusive entity. Tasked with finding the child -- a mere baby -- is 28-year-old Tenzin Zopa, a Nepalese monk who was the late lama's acolyte and close companion. What follows is a straightforward narrative driven solely by faith and belief in mysticism. Following his master's death, Zopa receives hints as to the identity of the reincarnated lama; some are physical, such as items retrieved from the funeral pyre, while others are as untraceable as dreams. He sets off into the gorgeous if impoverished Himalayan mountain region, where he "tests" infants for their past lives. With the camera in tow, Zopa is a welcome companion for us: gentle, guileless, deeply committed to his task even as he is troubled with grief, doubt and later, guilt. For if the child is discovered, he must be permanently removed from his family to a faraway monastery. Whether or not you subscribe to reincarnation and the ability to test for past lives, any viewer will surely see, even without explicit dialogue, that Zopa and the child's parents endure their own wrenching tests of faith regarding the deportment of the child. The film is quietly paced (as you might expect when trailing monks), but this journey -- really, a unique ethnography of a deeply intimate quest -- is often fascinating and moving. In English, and Tibetan, Hindi and Nepali, with subtitles. Fri., Sept. 4, through Wed., Sept. 9. Harris

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