About the Project

“illuminate” presents the main research findings of a qualitative research study by clinical psychologist Dr. Nisha Gupta for her doctoral dissertation, which investigated: “What is the lived experience of being in the closet as a sexual minority?”

Nisha developed an innovative research method called “cinematic-phenomenology” which blends phenomenological research with documentary filmmaking. She conducted research interviews with five research participants about their lived experiences of being in the closet about their nonheterosexual orientations. During interviews, she helped participants describe their felt sense of the closet through imagery, by guiding them to language their feelings using Eugene Gendlin’s body-focused psychotherapy technique Focusing.  Then, as a filmmaker, Nisha collaborated with artists to produce a phenomenological short film which translates research participants’ lived experiences about the closet into poetic cinematography. All imagery featured in this film is directly inspired by participants’ embodied and metaphoric descriptions of what being closeted felt like for them personally. The final short film and website seek to illuminate the invisible trauma that the closet inflicts, inspire LGBTQ people to fight for our existential rights, and instill empathy, compassion, and hope among viewers.

“illuminate” is the first film produced by the Phenomenological Film Collective,  a filmmaking group that produces phenomenological films for social advocacy aims. See pfcollective.com for more information on the research and filmmaking process.

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