Unmistaken Child

The Buddhist concept of reincarnation, while both mysterious and enchanting, is hard for most Westerners to grasp. Unmistaken Child follows the 4-year-search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan master who passed away in 2001 at age 84. The Dalai Lama charges the deceased monk’s devoted disciple, Tenzin Zopa (who had been in his service since the age of seven), to search for his master’s reincarnation, a child who may be anywhere in the world.
Year Released
Running Time
102 minutes
Date Released
November 3, 2009
Oscilloscope Laboratory
Average: 4.7 (3 votes)


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Unmistaken Child

Field of Interest/Specialty: Social Studies
Posted On: 04/10/2019

This film spans the search for the reincarnation of the Geshe Lama Konchog, a search that takes about 4 years to complete. I found this film to be an interesting insight into some of the beliefs, practices, and rituals of Buddism. Because of this, I feel as if this would be a good film for students to watch in high schools(9th or 10th grade) when studying world religions, should you want to look more in depth at the beliefs of the religion and tie it into more modern events.
The one critique I have with the idea of using this film, however, is that there is little to no explanation as to why things are being done by the monks. Understanding completely of this film would require a good deal of foundation in the religion already, making me feel as if this is more of a filler than a lesson in and of itself.


Field of Interest/Specialty: Asian Studies
Posted On: 06/06/2018

I cannot recommend Unmistaken Child enough. This documentary about a monk in Nepal who is sent on a quest to find the reincarnation of the Geshe Lama Kochong is fascinating both in terms of understanding the tradition of locating a reincarnated Lama as well as in seeing the ways of life in Tsum Valley, a remote region between Tibet and Nepal. It is usually my students' favorite film and has certainly become one of mine. We often begin a unit on Tibet discussing the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism and some of the cultural practices associated with the religion. I use the film to demonstrate some of these beliefs 'in action' in addition to pointing out the cultural norms among the rural areas between Tibet and Nepal.
Here's a review of it in the NYT:

NCTA Review of Unmistaken Child

Field of Interest/Specialty: Work Projects
Posted On: 09/04/2014

The film follows Tenzin Zopa as he goes through the countryside seeking out the reincarnation of his master for a few years. Featuring Tibetan Buddhist practices and ceremony that teachers may not be exposed to otherwise, this would be a good film for teachers to show to their classes as a supplement to any curriculum on Buddhism. Not only would it solidify any concepts the teachers may have already gone through with their class, but what the students see, such as the child playing with the toys of his past incarnation and seeing monks scoop out pearls from the teacher's ashes early in the movie (they are considered a sign of holiness in Tibetan Buddhism), will make the students indirectly confront how these beliefs and concepts play out in real life.
This film would be appropriate for children ages 13 & Up. There is no offensive materials, and actually explores themes of faithfulness, culture, and family as the film progresses. As a Tibetan Buddhist monk, Tenzin Zopa follows the teachings of “no birth and no death” and not being attached to other conditions or people (the former being a conceptual framework students of the 11th or 12th grade may learn in their Buddhist units). However, we see Tenzin saddened at the loss of his mentor, and apparent happiness when he goes out to seek his reincarnation. His reincarnate master is in the form of a toddler when found by Tenzin, and is therefore still under the care of his family. While the students may be a bit disconcerted at the fact that this small child is separated from his family, it is made apparent through the work of the documentarians that the Tibetan Buddhist monastic community is not lacking in familial warmth and compassion when interacting with each other. Thus, by presenting this documentary, not only will Tibetan Buddhism be presented in an “everyday manner” the students do not normally have the opportunity to witness, but it will bring about fruitful questions of how people of different cultures interact with their belief systems, and how that ties into the history of the situation and the current situations of individuals that are a part of this small section of the world. Even though Tibetan Buddhism is accepted as faith among the people that are seen in this documentary, students will be able to use the critical thinking skills they may have picked up when learning about various wisdom traditions from around the world to see how Tibetan Buddhism acts primarily as a social and cultural web that defines certain aspects of life in Nepal, and how it has influenced certain perspectives and traditions.