The film was written and directed by Eric Byler, adapted from the novel, "American Knees," by Shawn Wong. It was produced by Lisa Onodera, who optioned the book when it was first published in 1995. The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) in 2006, where it won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature and a Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Ensemble Cast. In October 2006, IFC Films acquired the film for distribution, under their IFC First Take distribution arm, which will release the film on a "day-and-date" platform, which will include a limited theatrical release accompanied simultaneously with a video on demand (VOD) broadcast premiere on Comcast cable.
Raymond Ding, a middle-aged Chinese American college professor, and Aurora Crane, his younger Hapa (half-Asian) girlfriend, have just split, but continue to drift in and out of each other's lives. Unable to fully let go, Raymond visits the apartment they once shared, during the day while Aurora is away. Aurora is haunted by flashbacks of moments from their relationship.
Encouraged by their best friends to move on, Raymond and Aurora each begin new relationships. Aurora dates Steve, a Caucasian man closer to her age (and also her best friend's ex). Raymond dates Betty, a Vietnamese American colleague, who he soon discovers is haunted by her own past. Race and identity issues begin to surface as Raymond and Aurora try to start new lives, but remain drawn to their past.
Chris Tashima as Raymond Ding
Allison Sie as Aurora Crane
Joan Chen as Betty Nguyen
Kelly Hu as Brenda Nishitani
Ben Shenkman as Steve
Sab Shimono as Wood Ding
Michael Paul Chan as Jimmy Chan
Autumn Reeser as Sylvia
Ryan Cutrona as Hank Crane
Takayo Fischer as Keiko Crane
Annie Katsura Rollins as Julia Crane
Greg Watanabe as Young Wood
Stephen Bishop as Miles
Munda Razooki as Test Driver #1
Nathaniel H. Taylor as Test Driver #2
Tyler Hori as Little Raymond
Michael Potter as University Administrator
Carol Saraceno as Woman with Dog
Yuri Treschuck as Amerasian Youth at Bus Stop
Jen Brown as Rumana
Kayvon Esmaili as Brenda's Boyfriend at Party
Teddy Chen Culver as Rumana's Boyfriend
Pearl Wong as Helen Ding
Amanda Fuller as Holly (deleted scene)
South by Southwest Film Festial, in competition – Austin, TX
24th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, Opening Night film – San Francisco, CA
11th Chicago Asian American Showcase, Opening Night film – Chicago, IL
22nd VC FilmFest, Closing Night film – Los Angeles, CA
9th Aurora Asian Film Festival, Opening Night film – Aurora, CO
32nd Seattle International Film Festival – Seattle, WA
7th DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, Opening Night film – Washington, DC
14th Hamptons International Film Festival, in competition – East Hampton, NY
26th Hawaii International Film Festival – Honolulu, HI
29th Denver Film Festival – Denver, CO
9th Wisconsin Film Festival, Diaspora Melancholy: Asian American Films, co-presented by the Asian American Studies Program, University of Wisconsin–Madison – Madison, WI
Americanese was met with generally positive reviews. The film has a score of 67% with a certified "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 9 reviews.
Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and wrote of the film, saying "Byler deals with characters who have lived their years, learned from them, and try to apply their values to their lives. Their romances are not heedless but wary, and involve a lot of negotiation," and finished by calling the film "...uncommonly absorbing."
Kevin Crust of the Los Angeles Times in his review stated that Americanese had "fine, understated performances and the self-assured way that Byler lets the film find its own rhythms, rather than setting into some template, result in a mature film of subtle complexity".
Audience Award – Best Narrative Feature – SXSW
Special Jury Prize – Outstanding Ensemble Cast – SXSW
Golden Space Needle Audience Award – Best Actor, 2nd Runner-Up (Chris Tashima) – Seattle International Film Festival