ILLUMINATE is a phenomenological short film that evokes the lived experience of being in the LGBTQ closet via sensual, poetic cinematography.  This film presents the research findings of Dr. Nisha Gupta’s doctoral dissertation in clinical psychology, for which she developed a qualitative research method called “cinematic-phenomenology” which disseminates phenomenological research as poetic cinematography.

RESEARCH PROCESS: Gupta conducted interviews with five research participants about their lived experiences of being closeted about their sexual orientation. Then, she collaborated with artists to produce a short film which illustrates participants’ lived experiences of the closet via poetic cinematography. All imagery featured in this film is derived from research participants’ descriptions of what being closeted felt like for them personally.

RESEARCH FINDINGS: Research findings suggest that the closet is experienced as a traumatic loss of existential rights: the right to truth, freedom, love, hope, and power. “illuminate” uses symbolic cinematography to make visible the invisible psychic pain that the closet incites, to inspire LGBTQ people to keep fighting for our existential rights, and to instill compassion and hope among viewers. .

IN THE MEDIA:We are moving stories” interview and “A Word With” UWG School of the Arts Interview

PUBLISHED METHOD: Gupta, N. (2020). Illuminating the trauma of the LGBTQ closet: A cinematic-phenomenological study and film about existential rights. Qualitative Research in Psychology.

AWARDS: Recipient of the APA Division 5 2020 Dissertation Award in Qualitative Inquiry; Award winner in documentary genre of 2018 Colorado International Activism Film Festival: “Most artistic,” “Best special effects,” “Best soundtrack”

CREDITS: Directed by Nisha Gupta. Cinematography by Joseph Carreno and Nisha Gupta. Starring Orlando Davis. Music by Lesley Flanigan. A Phenomenological Art Collective Production.

FUNDING: This project received funding from the Duquesne University McAnulty School of Liberal Arts Dissertation Fellowship Award.



Movie trailer: