Japanese Borscht stars Eric Rivas as David, a starving actor, who attends a barbecue to celebrate the release of his girlfriend Lena’s brother, Ivan, from prison. When a bag containing $100,000 in cash that was supposed to be presented to Ivan by his gangster friends goes missing, everyone assumes it was David who stole it. He finds himself banned from seeing Lena and her daughter Christine, a girl he has raised since she was 8 years old.
While filming a Phantom of the Opera short with porn star Ron Jeremy directing, all seems lost; until a chance encounter with a high school friend leads David to a group of Japanese Goodfellas who offer to help him land acting jobs in Japan. Ironically, they will also help him in his fight against Ivan and his gangster pals.
Releasing this week, Japanese Borscht is a re-make of the 2002 original that also starred Rivas. Many of the original cast, including Ivan Cornejo, Gianluca Camissa, Brandon S Yun and Tee Romero, return to reprise their roles. Joining them are Ángel Salazar of Carlito’s Way and Scarface, Oscar-nominated actress Sylvia Miles, Screamin Rachael of Trax Records and famed gossip columnist Michael Musto, playing a gay Mafioso named Uncle.
We spoke with star Eric Rivas, who also wrote and directs the film.
Thank you for agreeing to do this interview! Why did you want to re-make Japanese Borscht?
Eric Rivas: Because the first film was made with a lot of passion and drive but also on a vacation camera so it lacked in the technical aspects that I know now. It is also my favorite story!
How would you compare the original Japanese Borscht to the new version releasing this week?
Eric Rivas: I would say we made some leaps and bounds in the technical department through great camera work. My editing has improved and I think I understand feeling better. I have also made more connections in the film world over the years and some of them offer their talent in the new film.
How have you changed as an actor and a filmmaker in the fifteen years since the original?
Eric Rivas: As an actor, there’s less trying and more doing. I think now. I completely feel the character because in essence this character is me more than any I’ve ever played. It represents my growing up Puerto Rican, looking white in a Brooklyn melting pot.
What was it like working with Chi Chi from Scarface?
Eric Rivas: Angel (Salazar is always a pleasure. He’s one of the funniest human beings I have a met and he brought Scarface allure to the set and drove everybody wild.
There are quite a few larger than life characters in the film including Ron Jeremy and gossip columnist Michael Musto.
Eric Rivas: Have you seen the photo of Michael Musto in Rockefeller Center? That image says it all! It was quite a colorful set!
What is the state of indie films today?
Eric Rivas: I think we are at a crossroads where the average Joe can make a film yet he can’t get it up to a streaming service. So, in a way, we are back to where we were when we shot the original except that now we are the small fish in the pond looking to become Jaws.
Has Youtube been a curse or a blessing to independent films?
Eric Rivas: I premiered the Japanese Borscht trailer on Youtube and it was a perfect way to share it with the world. As an independent filmmaker with little money budgeted to promotion, Youtube is a great asset.
What's next for you?
Eric Rivas: Possibly making enter Requiem film with Lena Braun.
Japanese Borscht will premiere in New York City at Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Ave) on October 5 at 8pm.