Hidden among the mountains north of Beijing, a Wild West-themed gated community promises to deliver the American dream to its several thousand Chinese residents. In Americaville, Annie Liu escapes China’s increasingly uninhabitable capital city to pursue happiness, freedom, romance, and spiritual fulfilment in the town; only to find the American idyll harder to attain than what was promised to her. A documentary about Chinese suburbanisation and the move back to the countryside. Tonight we’ll speak about this and the documentary with a.o. director Adam Smith James. From 9-12 December you can watch the documentary freely online on this page.

In Americaville, we spend an eventful 2 years in Jackson Hole with characters who set out to live their interpretation of the American dream, only to find it fraught with unexpected complications. 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.

About the speakers

Adam James Smith is an award-winning, US-based filmmaker originally from the United Kingdom. His films focus on the expression of identity in urban China and include The Land of Many Palaces (2015) co-directed with Song Ting, on the “ghost city” of Ordos, Inner Mongolia and his first solo-feature, Americaville (2020) on an American Wild West-themed community in Beijing’s suburbs. Adam holds degrees from Stanford and Cambridge, the latter of which he is currently an Affiliated Filmmaker at the university’s Visual Anthropology Lab.

Tjalling Valdés Olmos is a PhD Candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam (UvA). His research within the ERC-funded project ‘Rural Imaginations’ examines how the US rural is represented across popular culture, and which effects of globalization are made in/visible in these imaginations. His work specifically engages questions surrounding the politics of representation, and pays particular attention to imaginations that entail the queer rural, the black rural, and the indigenous rural. What are his observations on Americaville?

Youqin Huang received her Ph.D. in Geography UCLA in 2001. Since then she has been a member of the Department of Geography and Planning and a Research Associate of Center for Social and Demographic Analysis (CSDA) at University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY). Her main research interests are housing, migration and urban development in China. She is interested in understanding the unprecedented market transition and its impact on Chinese people and places. Tonight we will talk with Youqin Huang about Chinese (sub)urbanization. What is happening? And what drives people to move to places like Americaville?

Thijs Jeursen is assistant professor at the University of Utrecht. In 2019 he defended his PhD dissertation on safety & citizenship in Miami, a research based on long term ethnographic research in the city. His research focuses on policing, institutionalized racism and urban inequalities. Thijs is writing a book on vigilant citizenship, publishes articles in academic journals and writes opinion pieces for Dutch newspapers like De Volkskrant and NRC.


Americaville (trailer) from Adam James Smith on Vimeo.


  • Director: Adam James Smith
  • Year: 2020
  • Length: 80 minutes
  • Language: Chinese & English
  • Subtitles: English
This programme is about
In collaboration with
Joline Rodermans
Adam James Smith
Documentary filmmaker
The moderator of this event is
Bahram Sadeghi
Schrijver/ Moderator