Bang the Drum

Deep in the karst mountains of southwest China, in the remote ethnic Yao village of Huaili, large bronze drums are alive. Their voices speak to the heavens, opening the path for the souls of the deceased as they journey back to the ancestral land. Beyond the funeral, bronze drums are valued by the Yao for their anthropomorphic role as a protector of the household. But the life of the bronze drum takes a new turn when the Chinese government steps in to protect this sacred heritage: Huaili village and the ethnic culture of the Yao fall under the tourist gaze, and the drum is transformed into an icon for tourist performances. Bang the Drum traces the path of heritage in a changing China. From Beijing to Guangxi, the film explores the multiple perspectives of Chinese officials, scholars, drum manufacturers and village residents on the changing life of the drum – which comes to symbolize how the Baiku Yao people are negotiating their place in a rapidly changing China.