Dark secrets have stained their love, but Adam and Loli can still get high on Nostalgia

“Mirage” is a thought-provoking short film by director Elizabeth Acevedo that takes viewers on a mesmerizing journey through the intricacies of love, memory, and the unrelenting pursuit of redemption. In a relationship where dark secrets have cast a shadow over a once-vibrant love, the film introduces us to Adam and Loli, a couple grappling with their shared past. Their salvation comes in the form of Nostalgia, a drug that allows them to rekindle their early memories together, offering a tantalizing escape from the truths that haunt them.

As the narrative unfolds, “Mirage” navigates the blurred lines between reality and nostalgia, challenging the boundaries of what is real and what is merely a fleeting illusion. Adam and Loli’s journey to confront their painful truths and break free from the clutches of their past is a testament to the enduring power of love and the human spirit’s capacity for transformation.

Director Elizabeth Acevedo weaves a mesmerizing tale that delves into the complexities of relationships, memory, and the profound yearning for a fresh start. “Mirage” is a poignant exploration of the lengths to which people will go to rekindle lost connections and find solace in their shared history. This short film invites audiences to ponder the profound question of whether redemption is possible when the past still lingers and memories hold the key to a brighter future.

What inspired the concept of using the drug Nostalgia to relive early memories in “Mirage,” and how does this idea drive the narrative?

I was an addict of nostalgia myself. Stuck in a seven-year problematic relationship, I clung to the innocent ghosts of our teenage love instead of facing reality. And my father was an addict of nostalgia. Debilitated by my mother leaving him, he suffered severe amnesia. His present life melted away, while he focused only on what he lost. I started to wonder, ‘How can I visually realize the role of memory in relationships?’ That’s when the tale of MIRAGE sparked to life.
In exploring the idea of dependence, even in a magical realism context, I pulled from first hand experience. I’ve revived loved ones from overdoses on meth, pills and alcohol, and I studied neuroscience at Johns Hopkins before transferring to film school. These experiences, I think, helped me capture the seemingly endless cycle of addiction in the fantastical drug of Nostalgia.

How does the film explore the impact of hidden secrets on the relationship between Adam and Loli, and how does the use of Nostalgia contribute to their journey of reconciliation?

We’re all watching our own theaters of reality, and we’re all in separate audiences. When a couple lies in bed at night, they’re not just seeing each other in their bedroom; they’re also seeing their own thoughts, dreaming their own dreams, entranced by their own memories. We’ll never know what mirages are on display in someone else’s mind – no matter how close we think we are to them.
For Adam and Loli, who’s connection has become more of proximity than of love, their secrets cloud their vision. They get high on lucid memories with the people they’re (mentally or physically) cheating on each other with. Once the lies come out, and they promise to stop tripping on their bad deeds, the couple tries to rekindle their love by getting high on a blissful memory they shared. Together, they’re able to access the origin of their love, but the path forward isn’t just backward. For Loli, time gets tangled. And since the audience is rooted in her point of view, they see the same twisted timeline she does.

“Mirage” touches on rewriting one’s history through Nostalgia. How does this aspect tie into the characters’ quest to overcome their past and build a better future?

I wouldn’t say Nostalgia is a way for Adam and Loli to rewrite their history because they can only re-experience what actually happened. Rather, I could say they’re rewriting their present by spending their time revisiting their past. And when we cling to the past, it’s difficult to see a future.
For many, real nostalgia is an addiction. We escape into memories, rather than facing reality; we lose hope for what can come. This cycle ensnares Adam and Loli, who choose to ignore the pitfalls of their failing relationship – like so many of us do. Their act of getting clean from the drug Nostalgia symbolizes the idea of letting go of the past. Only then can Adam and Loli embark on the odyssey of moving forward. Ultimately it’s too difficult for Loli; she only sees a way out by forgetting Adam altogether.

Could you discuss how the performances of the actors portraying Adam and Loli contribute to the portrayal of their characters’ emotional struggles and growth?

Because MIRAGE takes place well into a couple’s relationship, our rehearsals started outside the bounds of the script. Devon and Dylan wanted to know what Adam and Loli were like together before it all went south in order to understand the love that was at stake, so I wrote a secret scene from a time years before MIRAGE takes place. We went to set, just the three of us. I set up a soundscape and let Devon and Dylan improvise their way through the secret scene. What they wound up discovering “in the past” helped develop the specifics of the intimacy you see in the film. One of our rehearsals, I even held in a pool. That may have helped too.
In our initial one-on-one conversations, we also talked a lot about our own previous relationships. I brought love letters for Dylan to read. Devon changed beats of the script to resonate more with his experience. MIRAGE evolved into an amalgamation of all this very real pain – and even became new love.
On set, for the most part, we shot from worst to best – in terms of emotion. The shoot functioned almost like a winding reconciliation; Adam and Loli’s love imploded in the bedroom on day one and found its way back together in the end. The scene at the beach came last, so for us, it was a happy ending.

What kind of challenges did you face during this production? And how did you overcome them?

There’s always a slew of challenges, but for us, the heat was a big one – Central LA in mid-August during a heat wave. Dozens of cast and crew crammed into what felt like a tiny tin dollhouse. Plus, we all had on N-95 masks. The lovely textures of sweat and flush in Adam and Loli’s faces were not makeup! We were hot. But given the story, the behind the scenes delirium added to the characters’ sense of fever dreaming. There was an SUV blasted with AC at the ready for Devon and Dylan between setups, where they would rehearse together in private. Each time they would return to set, they would bring something new to the scene that they had worked through in the car. I think that little haven brought them as characters – and as people – closer together. There was a distinct level of intimacy that grew naturally as the shoot progressed.
Then, of course, there was limited time. We shot MIRAGE in four days, and I had a pretty ambitious shot list with several company moves. Those ninety-six hours simply had to be a crazed, militant spitfire of creative action.

What message or emotion do you hope viewers will take away from “Mirage”?

Sometimes, it can seem like the only way to move on from something is to forget it altogether. That’s where the ending of MIRAGE came from. But Loli has to relive a succession of negative memories in order to reach her final, clean oblivion; that’s her real journey. I believe we need to feel everything before we can make peace with the past. Face the hurt, the anger, the confusion, the desire. Don’t bury it. Don’t run from it. It will bubble back to the surface, otherwise. Relish the good memories but don’t ignore the bad ones.

What would be one tip you would give young filmmakers?

Can I share four?

  1. There’s no one way to make a movie – no one way to find money, to find actors, to write a script, to find locations, to build a network. Trust yourself to find your own way. All advice should come with a grain of salt.
  2. During development and pre-pro, don’t be afraid to make Big Asks. You’ll never be prepared for what you want to do, so you might as well start doing it now.
  3. Be humble, listen and seek guidance from those more experienced in the crafts than you – but do trust your vision. Only you know what you’re trying to say.
  4. If you’re a director, one main task is to find the right people upfront who see the essential glimmer of your script the way you do. Then, foster good communication with your collaborators and let them do what they do best. They’ll have their own great ideas. Be sensitive to the balance of when to go with your instincts and when to go with others’. Lead with your heart. Talk with your head.

Can you tell us what your favorite short films are?

My favorites are always switching up, but some recent watches I loved were Léthé, a Georgian short by Dea Kulumbegashvili; Overture, a Hungarian short by János Vadász documenting the inception of life set to Tchaikovsky; Nocturne by Lars Von Trier; Wayfarers (Podorozhni) by Ihor Strembitsky.