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Unmistaken Child 

Wednesday, Jun 24 2009
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Israeli documentarian Nati Baratz’s Unmistaken Child is a drama of faith, about a Tibetan monk’s search for the reincarnation of his beloved master Lama Konchog. This long march, which lasted over three years, seems confined to Nepal and northern India; the discreet filmmakers never mention whether they’ve crossed the border into Tibet. The disciple “interviews” an assortment of 18-month-old potential masters, employing a mystical calculus based on signs, dreams, and instances of recognition. (It’s clear that intelligence, good nature, and agreeable parents are also prerequisites.) In the movie’s key scene, the designated toddler chooses Lama Konchog’s sacred bell, beads, and hand drum out of a lineup of similar artifacts—with a swift sureness that put me in mind of kids playing with a Ouija board. The child is surrounded by chuckling monks, and the process happens very quickly. Skeptic that I am, I’d loved to have seen the action slowed down and the body language analyzed to reveal how the little Buddha’s choices were cued.
June 26-July 2, 2009

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J. Hoberman

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