“You could say it was love at first sight.”
That’s how filmmaker Nati Baratz describes his first meeting with Tibetan monk Tenzin Zopa, the subject of his new documentary Unmistaken Child — opening today. The film chronicles Tenzin’s quest to find the young reincarnation of his life-long master Lama Konchog.
But this was not the film Baratz intended to make when he set out for Asia. Originally, he wanted to document a group of orthodox Jews search for a hidden Jewish-Tibetan tribe.
He met Tenzin while in Nepal, researching his movie and attending classes at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. He was there to speak about his life and his master who had just died. Baratz says he realized, “this is the movie I want to make.”
But it took months for both Tenzin and the Tibetan monks Baratz their permission to make the film. “It was a long process,” says Baratz. “Twenty-thirty hour bus trips, five times. They examined my patience.”
Baratz doesn’t believe in reincarnation. Rather, it was his belief in Tenzin’s dedication to his master that helped him work through all the hurdles thrown down by the monks.
“Tenzin said, ‘but what if we never find the reincarnation? What if it takes 20 years?’ He was very much worried about me making this commitment.” After all, scouring the Nepalese country for a one-year-old reincarnated lama is like digging out a needle from a haystack.
“I told him that I am ready to take on the responsibility on the condition that he would be with me the whole way.”