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INDEPENDENT LENS: Unmistaken Child

Airs Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: The Unmistaken Child at enthronement ceremony.

Tenzin Zopa and the Unmistaken Child.
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Above: Tenzin Zopa and the Unmistaken Child.

After world-renowned Tibetan master Geshe Lama Konchog passed away in 2001 at age 84, the Dalai Lama charged the deceased monk’s devoted disciple, Tenzin Zopa, with the task of finding the reincarnation of this spiritual leader. Plagued by doubt, Tenzin knows his discovery is awaited by thousands of followers. "Unmistaken Child" is the story of his four-year search.

Tenzin Zopa was designated special from a young age. As a reincarnated master, he was not allowed to play with monks his own age, and he was always in classes or with Geshe Lama Konchog. The connection between Lama Konchog and Tenzin was formed even before Tenzin was born — when Tenzin’s mother was in labor, Lama Konchog came down from his cave to attend to the delivery, even turning Tenzin inside his mother’s womb to prevent him from being born in a potentially hazardous breach position. At the age of seven, Tenzin joined Lama Konchog and stayed with him until his death, escorting his master in all of his worldwide teachings and activities, and learning English by serving as Lama Konchog’s translator.

Filmmaker Interview

Writer/director/producer Nati Baratz talks about filming in the remote Himalayas without electricity, “love at first sight” with Tenzin Zopa, and reincarnation.

Filmmaker Nati Baratz met Tenzin while studying Tibetan Buddhism in Katmandu’s Kopan Monastery in 2002. Tenzin spoke of Geshe Lama Konchog with great love, and asked everyone to pray for the swift return of the reincarnation of his master. “It could have been just another inspiring night in Asia, but it was not,” Baratz says. “I could not sleep the whole night, realizing that this great young man was actually searching for his master’s reincarnation. This was a story that had to be turned into a movie.”

Video

Trailer: Independent Lens: Unmistaken Child

Above: Are some people born natural leaders? When one of Tibets greatest monks passes away, his shy and gifted disciple must complete a monumental task he did not seekto find his reincarnated master in the form of a child. Plagued by doubt, he goes on a journey to find the next spiritual leader as thousands of followers and the Dalai Lama await his discovery.