Housework

Yeah, delinquent again.
Well, there's good news for once. Filmmakers Co-op has found a new home, and quite a nice one, too. Check out the Times story here.

And I have a sweet little film to recommend, "Laila's Birthday," which is doing a week at the Museum of Modern Art. My review can be found here.

And an excellent documentary at Film Forum. For some reason this one hasn't made it onto the Jewish Week website, so I've taken the liberty and posting here.

There is a longstanding belief in many Hasidic circles in reincarnation, one that ultimately doesn’t differ all that much from the Buddhist version. And both faith traditions place a significant weight on meditation, the attempt to achieve oneness with the infinite and a regard for the sanctity of life that extends beyond the human.

It is impossible not to think of these similarities while watching Unmistaken Child, a new documentary by Nati Baratz that opens on June 3. After all, here is a quietly charming film about the search for a reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist master written and directed by an Israeli filmmaker. What, you wonder, drew Baratz to this subject? More important, what is there about this story that so clearly moved him to produce such a lovely, understated film?

The story the film tells is one that will be familiar to anyone who saw Bernardo Bertolucci’s underrated Little Buddha. Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan monk, died in 2001 at the age of 84. His disciple Tenzin Zopa, 28, who had been in service to the older man since he was a boy of seven, is sent off to search for the child who is the reincarnation of his master. Eventually, a small boy is found is deemed the “unmistaken” spiritual descendant of Lama Konchog. Given that the child might be anywhere in the world, Tenzin needs somew help in his search, which ultimately takes him to his own home valley.

Since the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism has been dragged into its own confrontation with modernity and the Dalai Lama has made a surprisingly comfortable peace with modern technology, reminiscent of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson’s embrace of the world of cellphones and televisions as the Lubavitcher rebbe. Much of the charm of Unmistaken Child comes from unlikely juxtapositions like the ancient Tibetan astrology used to narrow the search for the special child, the findings of which are conveyed to Tenzin by videotape. And while he uses a hand-drawn map of his mountaintop monastery and other locations of significance as a starting point for the astrologer, Tenzin draws that map with a large yellow pencil covered with smiley faces.

But what really makes Unmistaken Child a delight to watch is the fundamental decent humanity of its central figure. We watch as Tenzin gradually, tentatively comes to terms with his mission and, more important, the grace with which he develops a rapport with the boy who is finally pinpointed as the reincarnated Lama Konchug. The tenderness and genuine concern he displays is a reminder that at their heart, the best parts of all faith traditions have to do with the simple recognition of the humanity of others and a respect and caring for life. Whatever Nati Baratz’s own religious inclinations, his new film is an elegant and eloquent witness to that fact.

Unmistaken Child opens on Wednesday, June 3 at Film Forum (209 W. Houston St.), and is scheduled to play through June 16. For information, phone 212-727-8110 or go to www.filmforum.org.


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