Ambassador Entertainment, filmmaker Ruiz shoot non-stereotypical Latino indie this month

Rob Ruiz (right) and Hafez Ali Muhammad (left) are producing the feature film “Gigs” in Humboldt Park and Puerto Rico starting this June.

Weary of the stream of “thugs and gangbangers” he was called upon to portray as a Latino actor, Rob Ruiz set out to create a role for himself that was more representative of his Puerto Rican culture.

The result is “Gigs,” a feature film Ruiz wrote and stars in, shooting this summer in Chicago and Puerto Rico. Ruiz is producing the film along with a collective at the production and management company Ambassador Entertainment.

“It’s a story about pursuing your dreams at all costs, about not letting anything stand in your way regardless of your environment, about overcoming obstacles and stereotypes to achieve your goals.”

“Gigs” tells the story of two young parents growing increasingly embittered at having deferred their respective dreams, of boxing and salsa dancing, to raise their child.

“The couple find themselves resenting each other, going through all the tribulations of living in an urban jungle. [The father] goes through all the temptations of being a Latino male,” Ruiz said. “They wind up doing something that shocks themselves, and hopefully shocks the audience, to get over that hump.”

“Gigs” starts shooting this month against the backdrop of the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Humboldt Park Festival, then goes on location to Puerto Rico to shoot scenes of Ruiz’ character’s impoverished childhood. Shooting is slated to continue off and on throughout the summer, with the goal of theatrical distribution “nationwide, and throughout Latin America,” Ruiz said.

“We’ll focus heavily on Puerto Rican culture, music, dance, food, fashion, art and family,” Ruiz said, “and steer away from cliches and stereotypes about Latinos being involved in gangs and drugs and not being there for their families.”

Ruiz estimated a total budget of $175,000 to $200,000, about half of which Ambassador has raised thus far from a combination of investment, donations, and sponsorships from local businesses in return for product placement. Sponsors include Superstar Limousine, Salsa Congresso, and Zalia Cosmetics. Ruiz anticipated that Ambassador partners would personally finance part of the remaining budget.

Ambassador VP Hafez Ali Muhammad is producing the film’s sound track at the South Side’s Ambassador Recording Studios. The soundtrack features Ambassador management client alternative rockers Primo, as well as R&B singer Rozanna Rivera and alternative vocalist Kristin Shout. Slavor Productions Dance Company artistic director Nadya Cortes, who has performed with such salsa luminaries as El Canario, Tito Nieves, and Puerto Rican Power, is “Gigs'” choreographer.

“Gigs” will shoot on DV. While Ambassador plans to keep much of the production in-house, several crew positions are currently open.

Ambassador Entertainment’s web site is under construction. Contact the company at 773.235.6100.
– by Ed M. Koziarski,