illuminate is a phenomenological short film that evokes the lived experience of being in the LGBTQ closet via sensual, poetic cinematography. We used a “cinematic-phenomenological research method” to produce this film, which entailed conducting in-depth interviews with five research participants about their lived experiences of being closeted about their non-heterosexual sexual orientations. All aspects of this film are derived from participants’ descriptions of what being in the closet felt like for them personally. Phenomenological research findings suggest that the LGBTQ 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.

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. Starring 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: