Unmistaken Child

3 out of 5 stars
CHOOSE ME Another candidate is tested.
CHOOSE ME Another candidate is tested.

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

The idea of reincarnation has an instant appeal, but what happens when it governs an entire culture? Nati Baratz’s documentary, chronicling the four-year search for the rebirth of a Tibetan lama, presents a unique set of anxieties that arise from ascribing a one-year-old with the stature of a holy man. The continental quest is led by disciple Tenzin Zopa who, after 26 years of subservience to his late master, is shaken over what it means to locate and effectively raise his reborn version. Tenzin dutifully roams from one village to the next, looking for the spirit of the lama in each child as their parents watch.

The film doesn’t ask these adults much, opting to treat Tenzin and his sacred duty with more reverential observation than probing investigation. Recalling Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, Baratz captures these rarely-seen rites with entrancing beauty, but refrains from questioning whether these exercises amount to a child being trained (brainwashed?) into believing that he is a reincarnated Lama who can point to a photo of his dead predecessor and say, “That’s me!” Still, the documentary stands as a visually candid and picturesque peek into one of the world’s most mysterious practices.—Kevin B. Lee

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