Berlin––a cosmopolitan, exciting capital, a city of culture with international appeal. In the middle of it all: Berlinale–not only the city’s largest cultural event, but also one of the most important dates on the international film industry’s calendar. Ilil Alexander, producer of the ITVS-funded film UNMISTAKEN CHILD, recounts her experience meeting the film’s main character: Tenzin Zopa, a shy and gifted disciple of a great Tibetan meditator, who unexpectedly is appointed to lead the search for the reincarnation of his late master.
It’s a full house for our premiere and Nati Baratz, the director and producer, is invited on stage. He is so excited and can hardly talk. It is a significant moment to see him so excited and happy. After more than five and a half years, he did everything possible to make this film against all odds. It’s not a coincidence that no one else could have managed this project before him, which followed the real-time search for reincarnation for months and months. He asks the audience to stay after the screening because there’s a surprise.
I can see Tenzin Zopa sitting in his seat. I can’t imagine how it is for him, to watch on screen the journey he’s been on since October 2001.
About 104 minutes pass and Nati takes the stage and his voice is more excited than before. He gratefully thanks all our co-producers around the world. He then thanks Geshe Tenzin Zopa, the “surprise,” which was followed by roaring applause as he got on stage.
This very humble person first thanked everyone, wished a happy long life to all and made everyone laugh. One cannot but notice those qualities of a child-like soul, naivety, curiosity and peaceful acceptance combined with the qualities of a listener, of a father of a wise old person––a rare combination I haven’t encountered for a very long time. I can tell because I laugh, I hold the camera to capture this moment but I also feel tears in my eyes.
But the most enjoyable moment for me was later that night when Tenzin gently offered to make a greeting before we ate dinner. He gave thanks for the food, the warm place we were sitting, our health and other beautiful notions. He quietly explained how every item on our plate was there thanks to the generosity and contribution of so many people, the ones who raised the beans and the ones who carried and prepared them, and those who served them on our plate, and so on, paying attention to every detail. This made the dinner so meaningful just because of what it was, regardless of the great premiere we just had.
From now on, whenever I eat, I’ll always remember, it’s not just “us” eating. It’s the 84,000 organisms, all the germs and bacteria that help our body function, and we must take care of them, feed them properly.
As more than breath-taking landscapes, rare scenes and very dramatic moments, the heart of the film, for me, is the tender soul of its main character, Tenzin Zopa. Regardless of what happened, whether he just lost his old master, or just found his reincarnation again, he is always full of compassion for others.
- Ilil Alexander, producer of UNMISTAKEN CHILD