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Producer Ricky Cruz takes humorous look at US immigration crisis in new film
Starting his filmmaking career as an actor, Ricky Cruz found he wanted to do more than embody a character. The more he learned about the industry, the more he wanted to be a part of every step of creating the big picture. He wanted people to project and lose themselves in not just a character he portrayed, but in an entire story and world he helped navigate. Producing, he found, let him do all that and more, and now, years later, he knows he found his calling.

As an industry-leading producer in his home of South Africa and abroad, Cruz has worked on countless award-winning cinematic productions, including FoibleMixed OrdersPigeon Hole, and Improv a Saving Grace. He has worked alongside Oscar-nominated talent like John Cleese and other South African superstars such as Troye Sivan, and he has no plans on slowing down.

"I love working with like-minded, motivated and talented people from all walks of life and producing really puts you in the center of the action. To spearhead the execution of such an enormous creative endeavor like making a film means that I have a very interesting job that never really calls for the exact same work. While routines may be similar from project to project, the variables that separate films ensure that the work is always new and different," he said.

Cruz is known for his versatility, able to take on any genre and turn it into a roaring success, from documentary to drama. He recently showed off his comedic chops with the new film The American. Starring writer Reinaldo Garcia and Phyllis Katz (Zombeavers), The Americanexplores the universal and topical/relevant issue of United States immigration. The film received writing and production assistance from Emmy nominated writer: George McGrath (Pee Wee's Playhouse). It is an informative news special report style interview with an eccentric recent Cuban immigrant named Rafael Hernandez. The interview reveals the treacherous journey from Cuba to the shores of Florida and the absurd lengths that Rafael and his family went to in order to escape the then dictatorship.

"The beauty of The American and why I was so eager to produce such a film is the powerful commentary on the optimism and bravery in the treacherous journey that Cuban immigrants make to the shores of Florida and the incredible contrast between such a hilarious character inspired from such a thing," said Cruz. "As a foreigner from South Africa, I can appreciate the fear associated with being in an unfamiliar country and can't begin to fathom the further complications when the unfamiliar country is accessed in such a dangerous way and as a last resort to escape something. With such a complex and fully realized character, there is a twisted style of comedy that really just demonstrates an incredible sense of optimism that I thought was a quirky and original voice and perspective to have in a script and character."

Working on The American was a very rewarding experience for Cruz, who not only produced the film, but also directed it. The American had the unique challenge of being an interview style film, which meant it had to be engaging and funny with limited resources outside of the actor's portrayal of the character. With Garcia's knowledge of the character the film needed a director and creative producer who could protect the integrity of the character and help enforce an engaging narrative arc that would not only showcase the character in the most beneficial light, but would also keep audiences engaged with some respective character development. Given Cruz' relative success, awards and vast knowledge in the genre of comedy and his ability to effectively articulate ideas to a familiar collaborator, he was the definite choice for the now award nominated film.

"I have long been a fan of the raunchy characters executed by Sacha Baron Cohen and being from South Africa I also grew up on the films of Leon Schuster who had some phenomenal characters. I loved applying the principles of a director and creative producer to an original film in the style of comedy that I grew up on, and seeing the created character that is our version of Borat or Mr. Bones come to life and face our culture which is completely foreign to them was so much fun and an incredible experience to be a part of. It was also the first time working with now repeat collaborator Phyllis Katz (Dr. Dolittle) who has been a lifelong comedic influence and seeing a talent of her standard engaging with the character that was brought to life by the film is such an awesome feeling," said Cruz.

The American has been an Official Selection at the Dogslaughter Film Festival, Miami Independent Film Festival and The Lost Sanity Film Festival, and is still expected to make its way to many more prestigious festivals throughout the year. Initially, Cruz was worried that an interview style film would be too strange of a concept to really captivate audiences, and the humor would then be missed, but with his hard work to execute his vision, he was pleasantly surprised.

"The character of Rafael in The American is such an immediately lovable and supportable character that audiences responded and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the character's ridiculousness and hilarious perspective," said Cruz. "Rafael, as a character, was so well received and so successfully showcased in the short film that following The American, the character became the focus of a mockumentary web series: Adopt an Immigrant also featuring Zain Ashar and Jordan Knapp. To have been a part of the conception of what would later prove to be a longer creative avenue to explore was very exciting and has been very rewarding."

Be sure to check out both The American and Adopt an Immigrant.

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