Hidden among the mountains north of Beijing, far from the crowds, pollution, and bureaucracy of the capital city, a Wild West-themed gated community promises to deliver the American dream to its several thousand Chinese residents.
Jackson Hole, China is one of the country's several replica cities, places that aim to replicate the essence and architecture of what makes their Western counterparts so popular as well as convey an image of success and wealth. In Jackson Hole specifically, the American picture of rugged individualism as presented in American media and 1950s Hollywood serves as an abstract ideal to pursue. Director Adam James Smith is granted access to this exclusive town and lives among the residents to document their lives in this unique town. One such citizen is Annie Liu.
Liu escapes the stressors of an increasingly uninhabitable Beijing to pursue happiness, freedom, romance, and spiritual fulfillment in Jackson Hole. She hangs many of her hopes on the town in her attempts to achieve her idea of the American Dream only to find the American idyll harder to attain than what was promised to her in China's Wild West. After widespread criticism from the Chinese media and feeling pressure from new breeds of nationalism radiating out from both the Chinese and American governments, the community becomes split between those who cling to the American dream and those who seek to reclaim their Chinese national identity within this idyll.
FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "One of the reasons I think they’re doing it is because most of these people grew up in poverty in China. Now they’re experiencing being wealthy for the first time, and there isn’t really a Chinese model for it. So they’re searching abroad for these symbols of prestige in order to express their wealth and newfound status in their society.
I think this film will be interesting for Americans to watch. It’s almost like showing them a mirror but the image is distorted, because it’s their culture, but it’s been reimagined or slightly misunderstood. I’d really like to see the American reaction to this film, as I think that people now are thinking about what the American dream means. Young people, millennials are really struggling to make that dream happen - to land a great job when you get out of college, get married, have kids, get a mortgage on a Suburban house. Maybe people don’t want that anymore, maybe they want something else."
- Adam James Smith