The Phenomenological Film Collective‘s first award-winning short film, illuminate, is a poetic documentary that evokes what it feels like to be in the LGBTQ closet. This short film is based on a research study by clinical psychologist Dr. Nisha Gupta, who conducted in-depth interviews with research participants about their lived experiences of being closeted about their sexual orientation. All imagery in the film is derived from participants’ metaphoric descriptions of what being in the closet felt like for them personally. Research findings suggest that the closet entails 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.

While “illuminate” focuses on the closeted experience among sexual minorities, this project stands in solidarity for intersectional LGBTQ+ rights across the globe.

Please visit for more information about the filmmaking process, the sociopolitical trauma of the closet, and the mental health impact of existential rights.

Directed by Nisha Gupta. Cinematography by Joseph Carreno and Nisha Gupta. Acting by Orlando Davis (lead). Supporting cast: L.H. Gonzalez, Monisha Schwartz, Isaiah Noreiga, Lee Lytle, Jacob Wasson, Mary-Beth Grimaldi, Matt Rich, and Hakim Fontaine. Music by Lesley Flanigan.

PRESS ABOUT FILM: “We are moving stories” interview and “Art with Impact” interview

Selected as award winner in the documentary genre of the 2018 Colorado International Activism Film Festival: “most artistic,” “best special effects,” and “best soundtrack”:


Movie Trailer: