Whether it’s the kind you leather-bind for future generations or tell at a bar, the greatest stories always start with strangers being at the right place at the right time. Thus begins the movie Fruitcake, and also the story of how I met some of the people behind it in a flashy club one September afternoon.
Co-produced by Cornerstone Studios and Create Cinema, Fruitcake features a string of intertwined stories set in Metro Manila, brought to life by 18 actors of different statures (and networks!). In the ensemble cast are — bear with me here — Joshua Garcia, Enchong Dee, Ria Atayde, Heaven Peralejo, Jane Oineza, Dominic Ochoa, KD Estrada, Empoy Marquez, Queenay Mercado, Alex Diaz, Markus Paterson, Noel Comia Jr., Victor Anastacio, Kat Galang, Macoydubs, Red Ollero, Kaila Estrada, and Karina Bautista.
I walked into Kao Manila stone-cold sober with a hot chocolate stain on my white dress, already overwhelmed with meeting so many people. But the vibes, as the kids say, were immaculate. The media conference started with stand-up comedy sets and ended with a karaoke session of Fruitcake by Eraserheads. The stars welcomed me to their tables and recounted how much fun they had while shooting. It felt lively and different, giving us a taste of what to expect from the comedy-drama.
“Katulad nga ng fruitcake, iba-iba kami ng timpla na binigay dito. Masaya ‘to at punong-puno ng rekado,” Empoy Marquez said of the powerhouse cast. “Lahat merong own spotlight. Mahalaga lahat,” Victor Anastacio added. Macoydubs chimed in: “‘Pag walang fruit, ‘di ba, walang cake.”
The movie was born from director Joel Ferrer’s obsession with perfect strangers and converging destinies. Joel and Create Cinema founding partner Pamela L. Reyes started working on the script around four years ago; they were inspired by the 2002 teen comedy-drama Jologs and how it explored serious issues with humor. “Every story we made here, we made sure that the current generation can identify with it,” Joel said. “Iba-iba yung pinanggagalingan ng characters and hindi siya madalas tackled in mainstream cinema. I wanted to tackle it my way.”
Pamela said comedy is the film’s way of shining a light on these issues while keeping it digestible to all kinds of audiences. “Hopefully they’re entertained, but they also learn something from the different storylines.”
Joel added, “I want to keep yung energy ng youth even when the themes are heavy.” I mentioned that this is indicative of Gen Z, a deeply unserious group who have become masters at balancing light and dark. As such, they were meticulous in getting their portrayal of young people right, particularly with casting. “Buo na yung story bago pumasok yung actors – hindi namin siya ginawa for the actors. We had to read through a lot to see (if an actor) can play this character.”
It helps that this is a young person’s movie, not only by virtue of its audience but also its production. It stars and was written by young people. Create Cinema, founded by Pamela and E del Mundo, is heralded by young people who constantly push the envelope in an industry set in its ways.
Katulad nga ng fruitcake, iba-iba kami ng timpla na binigay dito. Masaya ‘to at punong-puno ng rekado.
KD Estrada called the experience of working on such a youth-centered project “refreshing,” sharing that “every time I walked on set, I felt so energized.” “Sobrang fun and exciting na narerelate ko yung totoong buhay ko sa movie,” Karina Bautista said.
“We need a movie like this in our generation. I really feel like this is gonna be a cult classic one day. There are scenes that are exaggerated, and it would be fun to watch your everyday life but more exaggerated,” Kaila Estrada said. “If you acted on all your intrusive thoughts, it would be this movie.”
Dominic Ochoa, who was also part of the Jologs cast, said shooting Jologs in the early 2000s and Fruitcake now didn’t feel like work. “Hindi namin naramdaman na natapos na. Nung pinatugtog yung Fruitcake (by Eraserheads) noong last day of shooting, parang three or four days ko siyang pinapatugtog sa auto papuntang trabaho. Nagising ako ngayon na tumutugtog yung Fruitcake sa utak ko. Nag-enjoy ako doing the movie at may impact talaga siya sa’kin.”
Despite not venturing into comedy often, Joshua Garcia admitted the only challenge he faced was having to wear a crop top for a scene: he plays a probinsyano who loses his baggage and has to make do with what he can borrow. I like to think this situational type of comedy is what best captures our lives right now, in that we have to laugh at our misfortunes or else we’ll reckon with reality and rightly burst into tears. It’s not so much about so-called Filipino “resilience” — ick — but about joyful solidarity. A joint recognition that, uh, the universe keeps playing tricks on us all, but we never face them alone, even when we think otherwise. Fruitcake, after all, culminates in one fateful train ride where the characters come together after all having reached rock bottom.
“(This movie) highlights na lahat ng tao, kung sino man sila – senador, probinsyano, teenager, stand-up comedian –everybody goes through the lowest point in their lives. At sabi nila, ‘pag nasa baba ka na, there’s nowhere to go but up. That’s where you’ll meet the people who can help you up,” Noel Comia Jr. said. “I hope mapanood ‘to ng maraming tao at ma-enjoy nila yung movie na na-enjoy naming gawin.”
Fruitcake is coming to a screen near you early next year. Follow Create Cinema for updates.
Cast photos by Elleisha Angeles
Cake photos by Oleen Florendo and Andrea Panaligan
Cake by Petite & Sweet
Special thanks to Create Cinema