In the 1980s, with the end of the Cultural Revolution, China has begun a vast land reform in its rural area to launch the so-called household-responsibility system, which aims at ending the egalitarian distribution method performed in Maoist China.
In 1982, in a village in Northern China, Kuisheng, the mad man of the village had been in charge of the best peanut field for a long time. Once the reform began, his land was coveted by the villagers who tried to prove that he was not qualified enough to keep such precious property.
With the Spring Festival approaching, Party Secretary Wang asked all villagers to rehearse “Beating Princess”, a classic piece of Hebei Bangzi (traditional wooden clapper opera). Uncle Lu, the Opera leader nominated his daughter Xiaofen to play the role of the princess. Xiaofen, in love with Shuman, the son of Kuisheng, tried her best to fulfill the task and to persuade everyone that Kuisheng was not insane. The rehearsal was intertwined with the final negotiation of land-dividing, which would have a great influence on the future life of every villager.
Is Kuisheng a lunatic or a saint, a victim or a hero? Shot in black and white with great humanistic spirit, Bangzi Melody recounts the Chinese land reform full of personal sufferings, political gambling and historical ambiguities.